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Language

Learning
Journal,
Winter
2001,No24,53-61

Teaching
communication
strategies
to
beginners
Angela
Gallagher
Brett
University
ofSouthampton

T h i s a r t i c l e d e s c r i b e sa n e i g h t - w e e kp r o j e c ti n w h i c h 2. COMMUNICATION
STRATEGIES
communication strategies weretaughtto beginners in German.
Learners wereinstructed in a varietyof: turn-taking phrases;
I t h a s l o n g b e e n a r g u e d i n s e c o n dl a n g u a g e
requesls forhelp,clarification andrepetition; greetings andpause
fillers.Information wasgathered
a c q u i s i t i o n r e s e a r c ht h a t t h e ' g o o d l a n g u a g e
fromquestionnaires andaudio
recordings of pairsof learners collaborating on speaking learner'usesstrategies,which could be of benefit
tasks
duringclasswork activities and duringan oraltest. Thedata to all learnersif they were madeaccessibleto them
analysisfocusedon the use of taughtstrategies in learners'
(see,for example,Rubin, 1975:.41-51).Strategies
speechand alsoon a numberof otherperformance fealures
h a v e s u b s e q u e n t l yb e e n d i v i d e d i n t o ' l e a r n i n g
whichcouldhavebeenindicative of strategrc behaviour.The
s t r a t e g i e s 'a n d ' c o m m u n i c a t i o n s t r a t e g i e s ' .
r o l eo f c o m m u n i c a t isotnr a t e g t eosu t l i n e idn t h e N a t i o n a l "Gan
Curriculum for modernforeignlanguages was alsoexamined. Learning strategiesare defined by O'Malley and
At the end of the pro.ject, it was concluded C h a m o t ( 1 9 9 0 : l ) a s t h e ' s p e c i a lt h o u g h t so r
that a rangeof beginnersbe
strategic phrasescouldbe successfully taughtto mostlearners,
behavioursthat individuals use to help them taught
although theirusemightbe dependent on taskandcontext.lt strategiesfor
comprehend, learn or retain new information'.
w a sa l s oc o n c l u d et dh a tb e g i n n e resm p l o yv a r i o u sp r o b l e m -
solving s k i l l st o m a i n t a isnp o k e nc o m m u n i c a t i o Communicationstrategies,on the other hand, are
n na f o r e i g n
communication
language.Finally, it is suggested thata numberof difficulties employed in order to repair breakdownsin spoken within the
existin reconciling the useof communication strategies withthe
communication and to improve the effectiveness confinesof
existing National Curriculum modelfor progression in speaking. the National
of communication(see,for example,Canale,1983:
l0). O'Malley andChamotalsoarguethat learning Gurriculum
1. INTRODUCTION for modern
strategiesare used in order to promote learning,
This paper describes a project in which w h e r e a sc o m m u n i c a t i o ns t r a t e g i e sa r e u s e d t o foreign
communicationstrategies(CS) were taught to a promote communication. This study concentrates languages?"
Year 7 German class in a comprehensiveschool on communicationstrategies.
and examinesthe range of beginners' responses There appearsto be widespread disagreement
to these strategies. The teaching of CS to in the researchliterature about the exact nature of
b e g i n n e r si n s e c o n d a r ys c h o o l sh a s n o t b e e n communicationstrategies. Many different labels
w i d e l y r e s e a r c h e da, n d a t t e n t i o nh a s t e n d e d t o are consequentlyused to describe the same or
similar entities. There are two main strandsto the
focus more on proficient learnersand, in particular,
debate. In the first, communication strategiesare
proficientlearnersofEnglish as a foreignlanguage.
believedby researchers like Tarone( 198I : 283-295)
I believe that the use of strategies for
t o s e r v e a n i n t e r a c t i o n a lf u n c t i o n . S h e h a s
communicationin order to overcomedifficulties
attemptedto place CS into categoriesincluding
in speaking could be significant for beginners.
avoidance,paraphrase,conscious transfer, appeal
This study is thereforebasedon an explorationof for assistance and mime. In the secondapproach,
the following questions: communicationstrategiesare seenas evidenceof
underlyingmentalprocesses(seeBialystok, 1990;
o C a n b e g i n n e r s b e t a u g h t s t r a t e g i e sf o r Kellerman, 1991). As such they are difficult to
c o m m u n i c a t i o nw i t h i n t h e c o n f i n e s o f t h e categorize.
National Curriculum for modem foreign languages? There are also argumentsabout the value of
o Which strategies could be effectivelyemployed teaching CS to foreign languagelearners. It is
by beginners? t h o u g h t b y K e l l e r m a n( 1 9 9l : 1 5 6 ) t h a t l e a r n e r s
o Are there any strategictactics already inherent d e v e l o p s t r a t e g i c c o m p e t e n c ei n t h e i r f i r s t
in the speechof beginners? language which they can then transfer to second

No24Winter
2001
53
A G A L L A G H EBR
RETT
languageuse. This means that there is no need skills was also includedin the original Programme
'repair
s p e c i f i c a l l yt o t e a c h c o m m u n i c a t i o ns t r a t e g i e s . of Study. It was additionally statedthat
However,more reaently,in the contextof MFL in strategies'were among the factors consideredin
this country, it has been suggestedby Macaro the structure of Attainment Target 2 Speaking
(1997: I I 7) that strategytrainingcould bring about ( D E S , 1 9 9 0l 9: ) .
an improvementin the self-esteemof low achievers T h e s ep r o p o s a l s w e r e s u b s e q u e n t l yd i l u t e d
and greaterlearnerautonomy. This view is also and condensedin Modern Foreign Languagesin
supportedby the work of Grenfell and Harris ( I 999: the National Curriculum (DFE, 1995),which no
73), who suggestthat strategy instruction could longer provided the samedetailedrationale. The
give learnersmore of a senseof control over their strategicpositionof MFL in the overallcurriculum
own learning. was not stressed. Attention appearedto focus on
The range of communicationstrategieswhich the stepsof progression,highlightedin the Levels
c a n b e e m p l o y e d b y b e g i n n e r si s o b v i o u s l y of Attainment, and on the opportunitiesfor pupils
limited; for example,it is difficult for learnerswith to learn and use the target languageoutlined in
the 40 statementsof the Programmeof Study Part
a restricted knowledge of the language to
l. Thereseemedto be a lesserrole for CS here,as
paraphrase. The most effective strategieswould
only one of these statementsreferred directly to
therefore appear to be those that allow beginners
strategies, (3i - 'developstrategies for dealingwith
to initiate and maintain conversation. Wong-
the importanceof a set t h e u n p r e d i c t a b l e ' ,p . 3 ) . T h e p r o m o t i o n o f
Fillmore (1979)emphasizes
communicationstrategiesmight havebeenjudged
of social and cognitive strategiesfor beginners
"The most a n i m p l i c i t c o m p o n e n ti n a n u m b e r o f o t h e r
a n d a d v i s e s : ' g e t s o m e e x p r e s s i o n sy o u
effective s t a t e m e n t s ,( 2 c - ' a s k a b o u t m e a n i n g s , s e e k
understandand start talking; make the most of 'initiate and
strategies clarification or repetition'; 2g
what you've got; join a group and act as if you
would d e v e l o p c o n v e r s a t i o n s ' ) ,b u t t h i s w a s n o t
know what's going on' (quotedin Skehan,1989:
therefore particularlyclear. The potentialfor MFL to bring
75). It is further suggestedby Dornyei (1995: 57)
appear to be out the use of communicationstrategieswas not
that time-gainingstrategies,such as pausefillers,
those that mentioned.
can keep communicationchannelsopen in times
allow T h e a b s e n c eo f s p e c i f i c d e t a i l i n t h e 1 9 9 5
o f d i f f i c u l t y . T h e t e a c h i n go f p a u s ef i l l e r s i s
beginners to Programme of Study was partly remedied in the
recommendedby Grenfell and Harris (1999: 93),
initiate and subsequentexemplificationof the 40 statements
who additionally suggestthat learnerscould be
maintain in 'MFL in the National Curriculum - Managing
taught turn-taking phrasesto help them find a way
conversation" the Programmeof StudyPart l' (DFE, QCA, 1997)
into a conversationand to encourageparticipation
and also in the revised orders for the National
from peers.
Curriculum(DFEE, QCA, 1999),which promoted
These strategies could be very effective in
the developmentof key skills through the study
helping beginnersto get going and to initiate a
of a modern foreign language. In the 1997
certain degree of interaction. However, the
documenta more significant role for strategieswas
t e a c h i n go f C S w o u l d n e e d t o b e s u p p o r t e d .
h i g h l i g h t e d i n t h e c o n c r e t e e x a m p l e so f t a s k s
Phraseswould have to be broken down and
consideredlikely to enable studentsto fulfil the
analysedin order to constructmore creativespeech.
requirementsof eachPoS statement.Similarly' it
This project was thereforebasedon the view
is currently suggested(DfEE, QCA 1999:8)that
that strategytraining could be beneficial. It
the study of a modern foreign languageplays a
involved teaching learners a selection of turn-
part in improving pupils' learningand performance
taking phrases;requestsfor help, clarification and 'through developing learning strategiessuch as
repetition and pause fillers, in line with the
memorising,dealing with the unpredictableand
suggestionshighlightedabove. It was also hoped
using referencematerials'. A requirementto deal
to include any additional strategicphrases
w i t h t h e u n p r e d i c t a b l ea g a i n p r o v i d e s s o m e
identified as useful by pupils.
impetus for the teaching of communication
strategies.
STRATEGIES Despite the fact that the current version of the
3. COMMUNICATION
ANDTHENATIONALCURRICULUM National Curriculum makes referenceto the place
of MFL in the overall curriculumand specifically
At its outset the National Curriculum for modern
mentionsits strategicrole, I believethat in practice
foreign languagessupportedand to some extent
promoteda role for CS within the classroom. In difficulties arise from the fact that the focus of
the original proposals (DES, 1990), the most attentionfor pupils' learningis on the Levels
contribution made by MFL to the whole school of Attainment,ratherthan on the skills, processes
'need for strategies a n d c o m p e t e n c e sr e f e r r e d t o b y t h e N a t i o n a l
curriculum in bringing out the
for communication' was emphasized(p. 3). A Curriculum. The model of progressionin speaking
s e c t i o n o n c o m p r e h e n s i o na n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n outlined by the Levels of Attainment proposes
strategiesand their role in complementingother that learnersbegin to speaka foreign languageby

L o n g u o g e L e o r n i n gJ o u r n o l
54
IEACHING
COMi/UNICATION
STRATEGIES
TOBEGINNERS

using the single words and short phrasesreferred


to in Level 1, beforemoving on to the shortsimple Questionnaire
1
r e s p o n s e sa n d s e t p h r a s e so f L e v e l 2 . T h i s
framework makes it difficult to introduce CS to
beginnersin such a way as to allow them to be
practisedand applied. In fact, the ability to
TaughtGSPhrases
'initiate and
d e v e l o p c o n v e r s a t i o n si;m p r o v i s e
a n d p a r a p h r a s e 'a n d ' d e a l w i t h u n p r e p a r e d
situations', is reservedfor Levels 7 and 8 Practisedand reinforced
r e s p e c t i v e l(yp . 4 1 ) . CS Phrasesvia Audio
As previously stated,a certain amount of classroom: recordings
linguistic competenceis requiredbefore learners
o Discussions madeand
o Role plays analysed
can paraphrase,but the framework provided by
o Games
the National Curriculum does not seem to
acknowledgethat an ability to copewith difficulty
i n c o m m u n i c a t i n gm i g h t b e a r e l e v a n ts k i l l f o r
beginners.Also, Levels 2,3 and4 with their 'set
phrases, prepared tasks' and 'structured
c o n v e r s a t i o n s 'd o n o t e n c o u r a g es p o n t a n e o u s
interaction, but concentraterather on the
regurgitationof memorizeditems. There is little
+
emphasisin the level descriptionson developing 2
Questionnaire
i n t e r a c t i v es k i l l s s u c h a s k e e p i n g t a l k g o i n g ;
moving from one topic to another;listeningto the
interlocutorand reactingto what they say. This In order to initiate this study, appropriate data
m o d e l o f p r o g r e s s i o nh a s b e e n q u e s t i o n e db y c o l l e c t i o n p r o c e d u r e sh a d t o b e i d e n t i f i e d .
Grenfell (1999:11) who statesthat the strandsof Questionnaires seemed likely to provide
progressionremain embeddedand that there is
"Levels 2, 3
information that could be analysedand categorized
i n s u f f i c i e n t e v i d e n c et o s u p p o r t t h e v i e w t h a t reasonablyeffectively. Questionnaireshave been and 4 with
pupils learn languagesin the manner suggested. used successfullyin researchon strategiesbefore their'set
Concern has been expressedabout the (see, for example, Dcirnyei, 1995; Grenfell and phrases,
Harris, 1999). A questionnairewas used at the prepared
developmentof speakingskills in MFL inspection
start of the strategyinstruction and another one tasks'and
findings (Dobson, 1998: 6), where it is reported 'structured
at its completionso that the pupils had a chance
that pupils areunwilling to use the targetlanguage to think about and comment on the tasks conversations'
and that, despitea good start in Y ear 7, they make undertaken. It was also hoped to identify the do not
inadequateprogressin both key stages.Examples strategies they were using. However, encourage
of only modestprogressin KS3 cited by Dobson questionnairesalone seemedunlikely to provide
spontaneous
are students' inability to answer questionswith sufficientdetail on the strategiespresentin learners'
interaction,
more than a single-word response,to deal with speech. I thereforechoseto make a seriesofaudio
recordings of learners interacting in pairs and to
but
unexpectedquestions or to use classroom concentrate
transcribethem, as this would provide an
languagespontaneously.I would suggestthat at rather on the
opportunityto examinetheir dialoguesmore closely.
leastpart ofthe problemhereis that pupils are not regurgitation
Q u e s t i o n n a i r eI w a s g i v e n t o p u p i l s o n
m a k i n g u s e o f s t r a t e g i cc o m p e t e n c e t; h a t i s , of memorized
completion of a pairwork speakingtask with no
developingan ability to make use of a range of prior discussionof strategiesand it requiredthem items"
c o n v e r s a t i o n atl a c t i c s a n d p l a n n i n g t o e m p l o y
to reflect on the task in ouestion:
t h e m i n d i a l o g u e s . I n c o n c l u s i o n ,r a t h e r t h a n
supporting and promoting the use of QuestionnaireI
c o m m u n i c a t i o n s t r a t e g i e s ,t h e f o c u s o f t h e
1 Z 4
National Curriculum seemsto have discourased
t h e t e a c h i n go f C S t o b e g i n n e r s . 1.Wereyou very
unsure
:onfidentin unsure very
of confident
4. THE PROJECT tackling
he of confiden'
myself
Jame? myself
An eight-week project was undertaken to 2. Didyoutake
introducelearnersto a selectionof phrasesin the
noneat not a great
timeto stopand enough
all en0ugn deal
hopethat they would be utilized as communication hink?
strategies.The training took place in the autumn wih a
term of Year 7 with a mixed ability classof 29 pupils 3. Didyouknow onlywiilr very
bitof easily
as outlined in the olan below:
whatto do? difi.rculty easily
difficulty

No24Winter
2001 55
BR
A GALTAGHE RETT

QuestionnaireI continued effectivenessof the strategy instruction (see, for


example,O'Malley and Chamot,1990:1741' Grenfell
1 z 4 and Harris, 1999: 77). Initially, students were
r e m i n d e d t o u s e p h r a s e sa n d s t r a t e g i e s r i n g
d u
4. Didyou
knowallhe all of mostof someof lessons,but reminders were faded out during the
none last two w0eks. lt was stressedthroughoutthat
German uords hem hem hem
youneeded? learnersshould try to keep going in German. An
oral test was scheduledin the schemeof work and
. Didyou coincidedwith the end of the project. This was
xplain h some
a lot conductedin pairs and consistedof two parts: a
notatall a liffie
myhingto extent
role-play and a board game. For the role-play,
)hers?
pupils were given a cue card with a seriesof five
6. Didyou question prompts and had to ask their partners
leamanynew for information and then respond to the same
n0ne 1 o r 2 sevenal lob
uordsdunng requestsfor information from their partners. This
he game? was followed by the game, in which pupils had to
uordsvoudidnotknow
7. WritedownanvGerman decide who was to start, throw the dice, respond
to a picture prompt and then allocate the next turn
to their partner,continuing in this way until the
L Wtratdidyoudo to helpyourselfif youneeded
a
winner finished. All the learnerswere tapedduring
youdidnotknoM
\,rord
the test.
"communication 9. Canyoutrinkof any\rods,phft$esor senhnces Finally, a secondquestionnairewas completed.
strategies vrould
wirich havebeenuseful to yourparherin
Learnerswere askedthe same questionsas before
should be German duringhe game?
concerningtheir approachto the task in question.
taught Strategy instruction was subsequentlyundertaken Information was also requestedon theseadditional
directly, over a period of l2 one-hourlessons.Pupilswere areas:
modelled, taught a number of turn-taking phrases;requests
practised with for help, clarification and repetition; phrases r Do you think working with a partnerhelps to
reminders expressing agreementand disagreement;pause improve your spokenGerman?
and then fillers and greetings. Some of these were r Which German words or phrasesdo you use to
practisedwith suggestedby pupils themselvesboth in responses keep a conversationgoing?
reminders t o t h e q u e s t i o n n a i r ea n d d u r i n g d i s c u s s i o n si n o What tacticsdo you use to make a good
having been class. They include the following examples: conversation?
faded out" . Ich bin dran [it's my turn]
o Du bist dran [it's your turn]
5. FINDINGS
. Ja, das stimmt [yes,that's right]
o WeiBt du die Antwort? [do you know the Clearly, it is not possiblein a shortpaperto show
answer?] detailedanalyses. The following, therefore,is a
o Und du? [and you?] brief synopsisof emerging themes. A fuller
r Nochmals[again] discussionis available in my M.A. Dissertation
o Wie bitte? [pardon] (GallagherBrett, 2000). Transcriptsof tapeswere
o Ach [oh] analysedfor particularperformancefeatureswhich
i n c l u d e d p h r a s e st o o p e n a n d c l o s e t a l k , t u r n -
In instructing pupils in these phrases, I followed taking gambits,requestsfor help, clarification and
suggestions in research l i t e r a t u r e t h a t repetition and pause fillers. I also looked for the
c o m m u n i c a t i o n s t r a t e g i e ss h o u l d b e t a u g h t use of social and other strategieswhich were not
directly, modelled,practisedwith reminders and specifically taught during the study. However, it
then practised with reminders having been faded might be assumedthat becausepupils alreadyhad
out (see,for example,Dtirnyei, 1995:64; Grenfell these in English, they would be able to transfer
and Harris, 1999: 8l). Opportunitieswere then them to their L2 context. The length of transcripts
provided in each lesson for learnersto practise ranged from 90 secondsto 7 minutes, while the
and utilize the strategiesduring pairwork tasks number of utterancesvaried from a total of 7 to 91
including role-plays, board and dice games and utterances. Pupils taped during classwork were
g a m e s o f b a t t l e s h i p s . A n u m b e r o f t h e s e volunteers. As everyone was taped during the
i n t e r a c t i o n s w e r e t a p e d a n d s u b s e q u e n t l y test, I endeavouredto transcribethose tests which
transcribed. Studentsalso chose a selection of seemedto be fairly typical of the whole group.
phrases they personally found useful and they
were required to learn them. I hoped to raise 5 . 1 .Q U E S T I O N N A I R E S
a w a r e n e s so f s t r a t e g i e st h r o u g h d i s c u s s i o n si n
class about how learners approacheddialogues R e s p o n s e st o Q u e s t i o n n a i r et h a d g e n e r a t e da
generally and about how they were coping with h a n d f u l o f p h r a s e sw h i c h w e r e s u b s e q u e n t l y
'your
particular tasks. This is thought to enhance the taught as part of the project. These were

L o n g u o g e L e o r n i n gJ o u r n o l
56
TEACHING
COMMUNICATION TOBEGINNERS
STRATEGIES
go, my go, I won, you lost' and 'do you know the Pupil 3 auf Wiedersehenno wait I
answer?' Informationprovidedby learnersin this Pupil 4 andsaythankswhat'sthanks{pause}
questionnaire also indicateda possiblecorrelation nevermind danke schiin auf Wiedersehen
b e t w e e n e x p l a i n i n g s o m e t h i n gt o o t h e r s a n d (classv'or k ro I e-pI ay)
learning somethingoneself.
In responseto Questionnaire2, pupils claimed On a numberof occasionspupils"finishedspeaking
t o h a v e u s e d a w i d e s e l e c t i o no f p h r a s e sa s by saying 'that is all' in a Germanaccent.
communicationstrategiesincluding the following
examples:
5 . 2 . 2O
. PENERS
o Wie bitte? Remarksto open dialoguesalso featuredregularly.
o Nochmals
During class discussionsstudentshad suggested
o Und du?
that greetingscould be employedto promote talk
o Guten Tag
o and they often beganspeakingtaskswith a 'Guten
Du bist dran
. T a g 'o r ' H a l l o ' .
Ja, richtig
Alternatively, learnerstook the opening turn
The responses
can be categorizedin the following with 'ich bin dran' [it's my turn], negotiatedit with
'wer ist dran?'
way: [whoseturn is it?], or allocatedit to
their partnerswith 'du bist dran' [it's your turn].
of pupils(bhl
Number These phraseswere also employed other than
Category
of Response number
of respondenb: as openers. During games played in class, the
27) starts and ends of turns were frequently signalled,
as can be seenin the following example:
Statemenb
of
14
agreemenVd
isagreement Pupil 5 ich bin dran {pausewhile dice is thrown}
zwei eins zwei zwanzis.du bist dran
phrases
Tum-taking 10
(classwork game)
Requesb forhelp, o
clarifi
cation.reoetition In the context of the test, thesephrasesoccurred ",;r;;;;"
rarely other than as openers,with the exception of included
Greetngs 8 utteranceswhere they functioned as turn-takers. concepts
The turn-taking phraseswere not utilized in the suchas
Pause
fillen 8
role-plays. turn-taking,
Requesb
forinformation This was to be expectedbecausethe question- working
answer format did not lend itself so readily to together,
commentslike 'it's my turn'. The phrase'und du' helping
In answer to the question on their tactics for a could have been employed to allocate a turn to partners
g o o d c o n v e r s a t i o n ,l e a r n e r si n c l u d e d c o n c e p t s the next speaker,but this was only found in one and
s u c h a s t u r n - t a k i n g ,w o r k i n g t o g e t h e r ,h e l p i n g transcript. planning"
partnersand planning.
R e q u e s t sf o r h e l p a n d c l a r i f i c a t i o n w e r e
This questionnairealso revealed pupil apparent in classwork transcripts, but again they
perceptionsthat pairwork has a beneficial effect were absent from the test data. Requests for
on learning, as 22 of the 2l respondentsstated r e p e t i t i o nu s i n g ' n o c h m a l s ' a n d ' w i e b i t t e '
that it helpedto improve their speaking. appearedto be popular in terms of the number of
pupils who choseto learn them, but they scarcely
5.2.USEOF PHRASES featuredat all in any of the perfomancedata. It is
possible that learnerssimply did not need items
5 . 2 . 1C L O S E R S to be repeated.
P a u s ef i l l e r s w e r e o n l y e m p l o y e d i n o n e
Closersor remarks to completetalk occured far
more frequently in the transcriptsthan did any transcript by one pupil, although eight students
othertypesof phrase.In all activities,most pupils statedthey had used them in questionnaire
a t t e m p t e dt o e m p l o y s u i t a b l e t a r g e t l a n g u a g e r e s p o n s e s .I n s t e a d ,l e a r n e r sf i l l e d p a u s e sw i t h
closerseven if they were not entirely successful, items such as 'right, ah, um, er' and 'oh'.
for example:
Pupil 1 richtig {pausewhile the dice is thrown} 5 .3. USE OF OTHERSKILLS AND
Zielich hab gewonnen {shouting} - STRATEGIES
f r i g h t . . . .I ' v e w o n ]
Pupil2 ja As expected,a variety ofsocial and conversational
Pupil 1 fertig [finished]/ miss miss what do we s k i l l s w e r e d i s p l a y e di n c l a s s w o r ka c t i v i t i e s ,
do do we turn it off especially games.This was apparentin the
(classwork board game) followins features:

No24Winter
2001 57
A G A L L A G H EBR
REIT

r Acknowledgingthe contributionof the previous Pupil l4 um what was has ist dein Hobby what's
speaker your hobby
o Providing feedbackon utterances Pupil l5 it's
o A g r e e i n ga n d d i s a g r e e i n g Pupil l4 is.it Schwimmen
o Prompting Pupil 15 yeah
o Collaboratingto find solutions Pupil 14 say Schwimmen
o U s i n g i n t o n a t i o nt o c o n v e ye m o t i o n Pupil l5 Schwimmen
o Simultaneousspeech {prompting}
(test role play)
Examplesare shown below:
Pupil 6 du bist dran A number of features in the transcripts indicated
Pupil 7 ja {pausewhile dice is thrown} vier vier that pupils might have soughtadditionalthinking
Pupil 6 richtig {pausewhile dice is thrown} sechs time before speaking. They sometimesrepeated
{agreeingon previous utterance} part of the previous speaker'sutterance. There
(classwork board game) w e r e a l s o i n s t a n c e so f t a l k i n g t o o n e s e l fi n t h e
middle of utterancesas if to gain thinking time in
Pupil 8 how do you say I live in
formulating a responseas follows:
Pupil 9 do you say ich wohne
Pupil 8 ich wohne Hertfordshire he does und du
Pupil l6 mein Hobby ist {pause}what's my hobby
{collaboratingto find a solution} Lesenund Radfahren[readingand cycling]
"if a handful (classwork role-play)
(classwork role-play)
of useful
Pupil 10 zwei eins zwei zwan zwei zw zwanstig
phrases are Reflective planning was evident in some
Pupil I 1 nein das ist nicht
made t r a n s c r i p t sa n d i t s e e m e dt o b e r e g a r d e da s a
{disagreement}
available to (classwork board game) s u r r e p t i t i o u sa c t i v i t y b e c a u s ei t g e n e r a l l yt o o k
learners,they place away from the microphone. Planningwas
will take All these features were more noticeable in the also identified in questionnaireresponsesby a
advantage of gamesthan in the role-plays. In every gameplayed few pupils as a strategyfor making a good
them" in class, approximately one third of utterances conversation
started with a word or phrase that acceptedwhat S o m e s t u d e n t sw e r e m o r e s u c c e s s f u lt h a n
the previous speakerhad said. others both in terms of the languagethey were
A d d i t i o n a l l y , q u e s t i o n n a i r er e s p o n s e sh a d able to produce and the social and interpersonal
indicated that many pupils were aware of skills they had at their disposal. They seemed
conversationaltacticsin English(L 1), asthey included a b l e t o e x p r e s st h e m s e l v e se f f e c t i v e l y w i t h a
in their proposals for good conversationgambits combinationof a few basicwords and the manner
such as turn-taking, asking questions,working in which thosewords were expressed.Intonation,
together and helping partners. This indicatesthat along with singing and even shouting were
leamerswere able to call upon aspectsof Ll social employed in efforts to communicate,for example'
and conversationalskills and transferthem to L2. in one instancea dice throw of six was greeted
'
The outcome in the test gameswas very with a very enthusiasticja ja ja sechs'. Not every
different to the classwork games. The test learnerappearedable or willing to do this.
transcriptsall revealeda much less frequentuse of
all the phrasesthat were taught in the study, apart 6. DISCUSSION
from remarksto close discussion. The social
strategies,especiallygiving acknowledgmentor Here my principal observationson the basisof an
feedbackto one'spartner,were virtually non-existent. analysisof the findings are outlined. I offer these
'du bist dran' was
During classwork,the use of commentstentatively, since each issue requires
'ja' from the next speaker.This further and more extensiveresearch.
alwaysfollowed by
did not occur at all in the test, where pupils seemed
less able to respond to what their partnershad said. o P u p i l s i n c o r p o r a t e ds o m e c o m m u n i c a t i o n
The only social strategy to feature frequently strategiesthey had been taught into their L2
during the test was prompting. This was speaking,although the extent to which they
sometimescarried out in English or, alternatively, d i d t h i s m a y h a v e b e e n d e p e n d e n to n t h e
p u p i l s i n i t i a t e d G e r m a n u t t e r a n c e sf o r t h e i r communicativefunction of the phraseand on
partnersor correctedin German as follows: the natureof the task.

Pupil 12 ein Hobby ist football This suggeststhat if a handful of useful phrases
Pupil 13 FuBball a r e m a d e a v a i l a b l e t o l e a r n e r s ,t h e y w i l l t a k e
Pupil 12 FuBballein Tanzenein Musik a d v a n t a g eo f t h e m . I t e n d o r s e sb o t h W o n g -
{ prompting/correcting } Fillmore's advice (1919) and Weinert'sview that
'entry into minimal
(test role-play) such formulas provide for

Longuoge LeorningJournol
58
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GO M M U N I C A T ISOTNR A T E G I E
TOSB E G I N N E R S

c o m m u n i c a t i o n '( 1 9 8 5 : 1 8 3 ) . T h i s t h e r e f o r e them. In this respect,the test seemedto reduce


appearsto justify teaching key phrasessuch as p u p i l s 'a b i l i t yt o c o m m u n i c a t e .
turn-takersto beginners.
o Pupils'useof strategieswas likely to havebeen
r Pupils did not use L2 pausefillers. influenced by factors such as personality and
g e n e r aal b i l i t y .
The teachingofpause fillers provedunsuccessful.
It is maintained b y F a e r c ha n d K a s p e r( 1 9 8 3 :2 1 5 ) There were indications throughout the study that
that the sounds learners make during pausesare more able studentsproducedmore language,learnt
l i k e l y t o b e u n c o n s c i o u sa n d t o b e t r a n s f e r r e d m o r e p h r a s e sa n d u t i l i z e d a w i d e r r a n g e o f
directly from Ll. This being the case,it may be strategies. It is difficult to ascertainwhether the
unrealisticto expectbeginnersto employ L2 pause less able studentsin the classbenefitedat all as a
fillers,but their usecould increaselateras learners result of the strategy training. There appearedto
becomemore proficient in the foreign language. be little successin encouragingthem to use or
learn the strategic phrases. It is suggestedby
o Pupilsuseda wide rangeof social strategiesin Grenfell and Harris (1999: 132) that more
interactionswith one anotherand showed an differentiation and scaffolding are neededfor less
awarenessof the workinss of such interactions. p r o f i c i e n t l e a r n e r s . A d d i t i o n a l l y , t h e s ep u p i l s
might be assistedby instructiontaking place over
Learners were often able to call upon a range of a longer period of time and including more
s o c i a l , i n t e r a c t i v ea n d c o n v e r s a t i o n a sl k i l l s i n opportunitiesto practise.
order to fulfil the demandsof communicatingin a
Reference should also be made to the
foreign language. This suggeststhat they have
personality of the learner.Pupils who volunteered
a n u n d e r s t a n d i n go f t h e b a s i c m e c h a n i c so f
to be tapedin classworkwere almostcertainly more
conversation.It is probablyLl knowledge,which
outgoing participants. It is reported by Skehan
pupils attempt to transfer to L2. This appearsto
( 1 9 8 9 : l 0 l ) t h a t m a n y r e s e a r c h e r si ,n c l u d i n g
r e i n f o r c e t h e v i e w o f p y s c h o l i n g u i s t ss u c h a s
N a i m a n e t a l . ( 1 9 7 8 ) b e l i e v et h a t m o r e s o c i a b l e
K e l l e r m a n( 1 9 91 : 1 5 5 ) t h a t t h e r e i s n o p o i n t i n "the use of
learnerswill talk more, actively participateand look
teachingcommunicationstrategiesin L2 because
they havealreadybeendevelopedin L 1. However,
for opportunitiesto practise,all of which should such
t h e u s e o f s u c h s t r a t e g i e si n t h i s s t u d y s e e m e d
have a positive influence on the developmentof strategies...
partially dependenton the nature of the task and oral skills. seemed
w a s f a r l e s s p r o n o u n c e di n r o l e - p l a y s t h a n i n
partially
. P u p i l s b e l i e v e dt h a t w o r k i n g w i t h a p a r t n e r dependenton
games. The question-answerstructure did not
seemto allow for the samedegreeof spontaneous
promotes learning. the natureof
interaction. In terms of enablingpupils to access the task"
their Ll strategiesin L2, it may be advantageous S u p p o r t f o r t h e l e a r n e r s 'p o s i t i v e v i e w s a b o u t
pairwork comesfrom Phipps(1999: l), who
to develop tasks requiring a less structuredand
more open approach. As the use of strategies describesit as a 'very efficient way to learn' and
w a s m o r e e f f e c t i v e l y e n c o u r a g e db y g a m e s , i t also from Macaro (1997: 135) in his report on the
might be necessaryto treat them as significantin Tarclindy Data. He found that pupils proposed
the developmentof strategic competencerather that the 'joint responsibility' involved in
than as mere entertainmentbreaks. collaborative learning did lead to better
rememberingand understanding. This seemsto
. P u p i l su s e d f e w e r s o c i a la n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n fit in with a Vygotskianperspectiveof the 'zone of
strategiesin the test. proximal development'in which it is proposedthat
a learner can advancein his/her developmentand
The apparent inability of learners to use many understandingin interactionwith a slightly more
strategiesin the test as opposed to less formal c o m p e t e n tp e r s o n w h o w i l l a c t a s a g u i d e i n
s i t u a t i o n sr a i s e sa n u m b e r o f c o n c e r n s . I f o n e finding solutions(seeEdwardsand Mercer, 1987:.
a c c e p t sO ' M a l l e y a n d C h a m o t ' sv i e w ( 1 9 9 0 :8 5 ) 2 3 ) . I n t h i s s t u d y , t h e r e a r e e x a m p l e si n t h e
that recently taught strategieshave to be thought transcriptsof a sharedproblem-solvingapproach
about and are not automatic,it seemsreasonable and also of solutions being found for one person
that they are less likely to be recalled in the by another. It could be this help that studentsare
pressuredcontextofthe test. This outcomeshould able to provide for one anotherwhich is the impetus
t h e r e f o r e i m p r o v e a s l e a r n e r sb e c o m e m o r e for the improved learning they claim is brought
proficient. However, the absenceof interactive about.
behaviour,includingthe useof 'ja', is worrying. I
would propose that the test forced pupils to o P u p i l s u s e dd e v i c e sl i k e r e p e t i t i o na n d t h e y
concentrateon their own utterancesat the expense t a l k e d t o t h e m s e l v e si n E n g l i s h , p o s s i b l y t o
of listeningto their partnersand interactingwith g a i na d d i t i o n at lh i n k i n gt i m e .

No24Winter
2001 60
BR
A GALTAGHE RETT

Repetitionis referredto by Bygate (1988: 75) as E u r o p e 1 9 9 8 ) , w h i c h e x p l i c i t l y r e c o g n i z e st h e


an 'important strategictool' which gives learners s i g n i f i c a n c eo f l e a r n e r s ' i n n a t e s k i l l s a n d h a s
the chanceto plan their answers.Talking to oneself similar categoriesto expresscompetence.
in English in the middle of an utterancecould be Even with the obvious limitations of a short-
a n i n c i d e n c eo f w h a t i s d e s c r i b e db y F o l e y ( 1 9 9 1 : term study,thereare a numberof implicationsfor
l 9 ) a s ' s p e e c hf o r o n e s e l f ' . H e e x p l a i n sh o w c l a s s r o o mp r a c t i c e a r i s i n g f r o m t h i s p r o j e c t .
talking aloud is claimedby Vygotsky to be helpful C e r t a i n s t r a t e g i e sc a n c l e a r l y b e t a u g h t a n d
for children, but is said to becomeinternalizedlater subsequentlyutilized by many, although not all,
on, but then external again when a studentis faced pupils. The majority of beginnerscan make
with a particular difficulty, such as learning a e f f e c t i v e u s e o f k e y s t r a t e g i cp h r a s e ss u c h a s
foreign language. It is thereforeprobably a deep- openers, closers and turn-takers,but they
r o o t e d p h e n o m e n o n ,w h i c h i s u n l i k e l y t o b e undoubtedly need to participate in a wide variety
eliminatedin beginnersand calls into questionthe of communicative tasks in order for this to be
plausibility of the current National Curriculum encouraged. For this approachto be effective,
ethos in which English use is not favoured. awarenessis neededof the many skills beginners
a r e a b l e t o e m p l o y i n a t t e m p t st o m a i n t a i n
. Pupilsshowedsomeuseof reflectiveplanning. communicationin a foreign language.

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However, studentscommunicatedwith a greater The Development of lJnderstanding in the Classroom,
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which is far longer than the 3 or 4 exchangesof towards a unified theory of Ll and L2 learning'.
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Level 4. In their use of strategiesto keep going Gallagher Brett, A. (2000)
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they showed a capacityto improvise, albeit in a S t r a t e g i e st o B e g i n n e r s i n G e r m a n ' , u n p u b l i s h e d M A
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an emphasison adding small amountsof language of Sussex.
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K e l l e r m a n ,E . ( 1 9 9 1 )
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skills and competences beginnersbring with them
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Norns FoRCoNrnrBUToRS
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