Taming the spoken language: genre theory and pedagogy
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In this talk I will consider one of the most basic questions in the
study of the spoken language: are there genres, or speech-types, which
can be described and classified for pedagogical purposes, and, if so, how
can we establish frameworks that will be useful for language teachers?
In the study of written language there has been a long tradition of classifying
texts into different types (eg narrative, descriptive, argumentative),
but, can we do the same for spoken language?
I shall use the CANCODE (Cambridge and Nottingham Corpus of Discourse
in English) spoken English corpus, which consists of 5 million words of
everyday conversation, to illustrate different types of spoken language
and how we can classify them. We shall see how the relationships between
speakers, the settings in which they are speaking, the types of tasks they
are engaged in, and the goals of their conversations, affect the conversation
in terms of language. From such observations it is possible to build a
framework for spoken genres which can be immensely useful in language teaching.
When we have established the genre-based framework, we can then ask the
question: what are the core genres which will be useful to most learners?
What are the characteristics of those core genres, and how can we incorporate
them into syllabuses and materials? How do they relate to different world
cultures? However, we shall also find that a genre-based view of
spoken language brings with it challenges to accepted methodologies, and
I shall use the genre framework to critique the communicative methodologies
now dominant in many parts of the world. I shall argue for a balance between
communicative pedagogy based on models of input-uptake-output, and
models that have a component of language awareness at their core. The talk
will be illustrated throughout by examples of real spoken data, and will
be both theoretical and practical in its orientation.
Michael McCarthy is Professor of Applied Linguistics
at the University of Nottingham, Great Britain. He has been involved in
English Language Teaching for 33 years. He has taught in Britain, Spain,
Sweden, The Netherlands and Malaysia, and has lectured on English Language
Teaching in more than 30 countries. He is currently Co-Director, with Ronald
Carter, of the CANCODE spoken English corpus project at the University
of Nottingham, which is investigating everyday spoken English for the purposes
of producing language teaching materials and reference materials which
support the teaching of speaking. He has published many books and articles
on vocabulary teaching and on spoken language, including course books,
dictionaries and more theoretically-oriented books. His most recent publications
include Second Language Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition, Pedagogy
(1997), Spoken Language and Applied Linguistics (1998), English Vocabulary
in Use; Elementary (1999), all published by Cambridge University Press.