Written versus spoken English
TESL / TEFL theory from the learning and teaching experiences of Ted Power
Continuous flow of sound produced by the physical linking of one word to the next within the phrases.
Strong contrast is often made in conversation between heavy and weak stresses. Syllables which unsergo the process of reduction inherent in this contrast can be rendere 828f519i d obscure, indeterminate or even non-existent.
Grammatical and lexical material may disappear e.g. Oh, it does you good [ (to have a good) laugh once in a while,] doesn't it. I haven't laughed at anything so much for a long time (Highly stressed syllables).
Since Conversation isn't scripted in advance, it rarely uses the width of vocabulary and the complicated structures which are normally associated with written English or more formal styles of the language.
The act of conversation sets its own challenges which include establishing contact with the intended listener(s) and filling in time while preparing a context for segments of the utterance containing a properly organised message.
These functions are served through Conversation Tags and fillers, exclamations, expletives, hesitations and even longer formulae e.g. isn't it? My golly I think I mean You know, don't you?
In many conversations where agreable noise-making is called upon to fulfil a social function, it is often possible to retreat from the creative challenge or the mental discipline needed to say anything of substance.
At times when we want to relax our minds as well as on the occasions when we need more time to organise our thoughts we tend to fall back on lines we have rehearsed over and over again.
These include the idioms, colloquial clichés and polite formulae which are much in evidence in utterances between friends e.g. the funniest thing I've ever seen, terribly funny (colloquial clichés); mind you; have a good laugh (idioms)
Word length in Conversation is generally shorter than in other forms of spoken English. As speakers, most of us have greater familiarity with words of one or two syllables.
Conversation is usually made up of simple phrasal and compound verbs and the limited vocabulary used to serve the basic functions of agreement, offering, acceptance, greeting, request-making, stating & modifying beliefs, questioning & responding.
These areas are well-rehearsed and it is customary to use an unintimidating vocabulary.
The creative challenge of conversation often fails to result in syntactically perfect sentences. In this sense, sentences are not always simple. They are sometimes loose, awkward or vague. It is not easy to use the notion of "sentence".
Complete utterances in Conversation may be phrases which would be regarded as fragmentary in writing or spoken prose. There is often considerable use of contractions e.g. Haven't seen you for years. Err, Malcolm; Celia. Err, gin & tonic please.
Note that when two people are being introduced to one another, the context of "Err Malcolm; Celia." is provided by physical gesture and facial expression.
As sentences, conversational utterances are often "mixed" or "stringy" in syntactic form and omission of words is fairly common. Hesitations, self-interruptions, repetitions & false starts leave their mark on what may aptly be called a series of segments.
e.g. Well, I mean - I mean bits of it are - bits of it are quite funny aren't they. I mean bits of it. You know, don't you.
The arrangement of words gives more play to the intonation patterns of Spoken English. Instead of saying " Do you like it?" Rupert remarks: "You like it, do you?"
Utterances are constructerd so as to make way for exclamations and question tags. Malcolm's heavy use of Tune 1 "it's funny, isn't it" elicits strong agreement, at least from Charles. Rupert's heavy use of Tune 2 raises a note of discord which disturbs M.
The characteristics which differentiate Conversation from Spoken Prose or semi-formal Written English mostly relate to the nature of the interaction (i.e.It's not monologue), the need to produce and organise spontaneously & the social functions it serves.
Yet a knowledge of where sounds are articulated in the mouth coupled with signals as to the directions in which speech organs are moving and whether to expect "voiced" or "voiceless" stops, will help the non-native speaker develop similar listening skills
It is not difficult for teachers to demonstrate the relatively short vowel and voiceless stop in the word "seat" and to compare them with the longer vowel and voiced stop in the word "seed".
Indirect as well as direct procedures can be practised in identifying voiceless and voiced consonant sounds.
In this context, learners will both appreciate how simplification comes about and develop sufficient sensitivity to the sound of "informal English" to overcome the obstacles which features such as elision & assimilation present to the non-native listener.
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