Conversational English: Teaching Spontaneity

  • Dave Willis
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


We need to make learners aware of the specific features of conversational English which make it different from standard pedagogic descriptions of the language. The problem is that many of these differences arise from the fact that conversational English is necessarily spontaneous. In conversation we have ways of holding the floor to allow us to pause for a moment. We constantly use checking devices to monitor the development of the discourse. We use appropriately ‘vague language’ when we do not have the time, the language or the wish for greater precision. Unfortunately there is a contradiction in the notion of teaching spontaneity. In this paper I will argue we need to do two things:
  • we need to raise learners’ awareness of the nature of conversational language and their understanding of why it is the way it is;

  • we need a task-based methodology which will reproduce in the classroom the need for spontaneous production of language for a genuine communicative purpose.

Traditional methodologies which rely on isolating and practising features of grammar, lexis and pronunciation require learners to focus consciously on what they are doing—the very reverse of spontaneous production. And traditional methodologies tend to be prescriptive in a way that inhibits spontaneity. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why learners have such difficulty in moving from the classroom environment to using language freely outside the classroom.


Spontaneous Speech Monday Morning Spontaneous Production Discourse Marker Letter Word 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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