Posts filed under ‘Speaking’

Practicing Speaking

Speaking about the Weather
Even strangers discuss the weather. Learn the proper vocabulary and expressions, and you’ll find it easy to start a conversation anytime, anywhere–with anyone you meet!

Small Talk
What can we say in casual conversations with strangers or colleagues we meet in the lift? Small talk is a casual form of conversation that “breaks the ice” or fills an awkward silence between people.

Agreeing and Disagreeing
Sooner or later you will get the urge to agree or disagree with something that is being said in English. Offering an opinion can be difficult when it is not in your first language…

English Speaking Links Product Tip
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This is a program on CD-rom to help your pronunciation. Pronunciation Power is simply the best pronunciation program anywhere in the world. That is why recommends and sells it. We have tested this program fully and we know that it can help you to speak more clearly. But the advantage of learning good pronunciation is not only that it helps you to speak – it also helps you to listen and understand. Please try Pronunciation Power if you are serious about speaking good English. Pronunciation Power is used by thousands of universities and schools around the world for one reason – it’s the best. It comes in two levels. If your level in English is beginner to intermediate, we suggest you try Pronunciation Power 1. If you are intermediate to advanced, we suggest Pronunciation Power 2.
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April 8, 2008 at 1:56 am Leave a comment

English Speaking

English Club English SpeakingWelcome to English Speaking for ESL learners, to help you learn and practise the skill of speaking English. Speaking is the 2nd of the four language skills:1 Listening, 2 Speaking, 3 Reading, 4 Writing

The Importance of Speaking Practice
Speaking to yourself can be “dangerous” because men in white coats may come and take you away!! That is why you should make every effort possible to find somebody to speak with.

Telephone English
In this lesson we look at some of the words and expressions that we use for telephoning. There are also some practice sessions and a quiz for you to check your understanding.

Presentations & Public Speaking
Presentations in EnglishLearn how to give a presentation or speak in public in English. This tutorial guides you step by step through the process of making a presentation, from preparation to conclusion and questions.
“Well Done!!!! All the basics, in an easy to use, easy to follow format! Finally, my students have some high quality, free material to use!”
John Herzig, Teacher, USA

April 8, 2008 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Questions and answers

Speaking and vocabulary classes

The question

Speaking and vocabulary classes
Marianna, Malaysia

I am currently teaching groups of intermediate to advanced level Japanese women. Basically they want only to speak and learn new vocabulary. Course books available are not appropriate as they involve more reading and grammar than they want. So, I have been preparing every lesson from scratch. I often begin with vocabulary related to a topic and then give them questions related to the topic to discuss in pairs (allowing for the most actual talking time possible). While this is effective, it’s become a little boring. Any other suggestions?

Any advice or ideas for Marianne? How do you structure speaking and vocabulary classes? Have you got any great activity types for speaking? Any tips, suggestions or comments? Contact us

Your answers

Jason Blean, BSc, CELTA, UK
I have used cards with vocabulary related to certain areas. I have played a game of “syllable stress snap” with younger students but also I played “poker” with a set of 56 cards of “families” of words, e.g. Fertile, Fertilize, Fertilization, Fertility…I also have created “wordlines” that are web pages with the 400 most used words in English, translated into the students’ own language. They should try to make a short story using these words. Hope this helps!


Helen, Japan
I would suggest role playing. This could be used to practice everyday vocabulary or vocabulary linked to a topic in the news etc. The class-members are given different roles (mother/child, husband/wife, person with a problem/sympathetic friends, doctor/patient/relative, in favour of X/against X etc.) and act these out in discussions. All those with the same role can meet in small groups first to go over basic strategies. I find that this works well with Japanese university students because a) everyone has to take part, however ‘shy’, and b) it introduces an element of controversy even if everyone in the class appears to have very similar opinions. It can also be great fun. Class members could be invited to suggest topics, and this could be used as a way of encouraging them to do some reading (initially of agony columns in the local English press?) if you want to.

Gill Quarcoopome, Ghana
I also teach Japanese women although usually one to one.

  • As well as giving vocabulary about a topic, also suggest ways of approaching different situations, and the appropriate vocabulary e.g. If you want to complain about something you have bought; or if something breaks down in the home/car etc, how do you solve the problem?; what expressions do you use to politely ask a favour?; how would you do any of these things over the telephone?(sit students back to back for mock telephone conversations).
  • Choose any listening tape for the start of a discussion or tape radio programmes or news items. Maybe the course books you have include tapes. Use these to introduce a topic or grammar point.
  • Use of phrasal verbs in conversation is always tricky so choose maybe 8 and give each student one or two that they have to use correctly within a conversation topic.
  • Choose a few phrases used to express agreement or disagreement when talking about a film/book/fashion/politics or what ever interests your students.
  • Concentrate sometimes on the way stress and intonation change the meaning of sentences.
  • Or practise using question tags and short answers (‘so do I’ and ‘neither do I’ are particularly difficult to use quickly).

Hope you can use a few of these suggestions.

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Hatice Salih Kerimgil, North Cyprus
Why don’t you get your students to…

  • think of situations where they want to use their English.
  • then write dialogues in their own language, e.g. shopping for a skirt, what might the customer ask the assistant ( how much is this? do you have this in a size 14? do you have this in blue? etc etc). What reply might the customer get (it costs ….., yes , no etc). What follow up question could the customer ask?( can you order a size 14/a blue one for me, etc ).
  • These then get translated with the help of the teacher by the students .
  • The students then role play with the English dialogue. This can be done in pairs, groups or as a class.
  • Each group can work on the same or different situation.

The teacher should have situations in mind to help start the lesson off should the students be stuck for ideas.

Because the situations have been chosen by the students the lesson will be more interesting.

Some topic/ situation ideas:

All types of shopping.
Asking directions.
A dinner party.
Going to the doctor/dentist.
Giving visitors information about the local area and its facilities.

I have done this with individual students and groups of 2/3, but never in a class situation, but I am sure it will work. Let me know if you try this out and what happened. Lots of luck

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Liz Glanville, Italy
At this level, you really want to stimulate interest in a topic, which gets them talking. Questionnaires are really good for this type of activity and introduce lots of new vocabulary too. There’s a really good book for this called “Speaking Personally”. It’s also a good idea to deal with something topical – it could be anything in the news, arts, even gossip. You could find short articles and use them as a point of departure for discussion. Once they see that the reading stimulates talking, they won’t mind reading a bit. As I said before, the key is in finding subjects that stimulate debate and discussion. I always find it useful to use reading material, which helps to get the students thinking and therefore talking!

Lilly Spillman, Argentina
This is in response to Marianne from Malaysia concerning her question about conversation lessons with a group of Japanese women. Marianne, I have also been teaching conversation to groups of adults and I do agree with you that sometimes text books happen to have too much reading which students do not find appealing. However, this year I discovered ‘Inside Out’ (intermediate, upper and advanced) to be a very interesting resource for conversation lessons. As it is a new textbook, most of the topics are up to date and the students enjoy them a lot. There are very good songs and interesting readings which bring about a lot of debate and active participation on the part of the students. I don’t necessarily give them the grammar items, but I do work with vocabulary which you can find in the workbook. Besides this, the students can surf in the net and find activities while they have fun. I hope you try and that this has been helpful. Good Luck!!

Anon., Iran
I think Marriana’s approach is good. To save boring her students she can play some games concerning the words she has taught. For example she can ask one student to leave the classroom and then choose a word with the other students. After entering the class that student names some words and the others answer her with No or Yes.
I wish her success

Harrow English School
We suggest that the pupils be directed to the numerous ways of finding individual, private e-mail correspondents in Britain and become part of an organised but private exchange of information, ideas and gossip.

Books and materials mentioned in these answers are suggestions from users and do not indicate recommendations from the BBC and the British Council

February 28, 2008 at 10:35 pm Leave a comment


On these pages you will find links to articles connected with the teaching of listening skills.

Latest article

Evaluating speaking
Paul Kaye, Materials writer, Bolivia

This article is in two parts. This part looks at what a speaker needs to be able to do in order to use spoken English as an effective form of communication. For example, speakers need to pronounce individual sounds clearly, understand the functions of language, and follow the conventions of turn-taking. The second article will look at how these competencies can be evaluated, with specific discussion of formal methods such as the IELTS and Cambridge Main Suite speaking tests.

Go to this article >>

Other articles

Speaking aids
Judit Fehér, Freelance teacher, Trainer, Materials writer
How would your Christmas feel without a Christmas tree or your birthday without a cake? How romantic would your romantic dinner be without candles? Probably you agree that these little things make a lot of difference and it is with good reason why people spend time, money and energy to get the right small objects to help them put themselves and their loved ones into the right mood.
Go to this article >>

Group discussion skills
Amy Lightfoot, British Council, India
Group discussions occur in many different formats – from very informal ones between friends to highly structured and challenging discussions included as part of a selection process. In both cases, there are a number of specific skills that we can help our students develop to become better able to contribute effectively to group discussions.

Go to this article >>

Public speaking skills
Amy Lightfoot, British Council, India
For many people, standing up in public and doing a speech is one of their greatest fears. For many language students in particular, this is the ultimate challenge. In this article we will look at some ways we can help intermediate level students to overcome the difficulties involved and explore some techniques for making their speeches as impressive as possible.

Go to this article >>

Personalised speaking
David Heathfield, Trainer, Writer, UK
People spend a huge chunk of their everyday conversation time talking about themselves and the people they know, so the most natural thing in the world is for us to invite our students to do the same.

Go to this article >>

Increasing student interaction
Patrick Howarth, Teacher, Trainer, Portugal
I have noticed in many of the classes I have taught that there can be a tendency for the learners to want to interact with me but less enthusiasm when it comes to interacting with each other. I should emphasize that this reticence only applies to interaction in English but it does seem to apply to groups of all nationalities, ages and levels.

Go to this article >>

Audio exchange project
Deborah Bullock, Teacher, British Council, Ukraine
Even though the exchange failed, the task of creating a radio programme benefited the students. They welcomed the opportunity to communicate with non-Ukrainian teenagers and they were keen to share information about special days in their country.

Go to this article >>

Video exchange project
Deborah Bullock, Teacher, British Council, Ukraine
Getting teenagers to speak English can prove a challenge to many teachers. One way is to provide a context for real and meaningful communication. This article examines how a video exchange project can stimulate motivation and interest by providing such a context.

Go to this article >>

Student presentations
Tom Hayton, Teacher, Business Trainer, British Council Kuala Lumpur
In this article I would like to give you a few tips and some advice on what I’ve learned from helping students prepare and deliver presentations.

Go to this article >>

Speaking and elementary learners
Sue Leather, freelance trainer and writer
Unfortunately, I think that all too often, ‘speaking’ can be confined to students answering the teacher’s questions or repetition and manipulation of form. As my elementary students have limited linguistic resources, it can be difficult to find ways to get them to really ‘push’ their productive skills in a meaningful way.

Go to this article >>

Getting teenagers talking
Catherine Sheehy Skeffington, British Council, Barcelona
Getting teenagers to use English in class can provide a considerable challenge to most teachers. This article examines some of the reasons why it can be so difficult and makes some suggestions for overcoming these problems.

Go to this article >>

Teaching speaking skills 2 – overcoming classroom problems
Fiona Lawtie, ELT teacher, British Council, Caracas
“This article is written for teachers with large classes of students who have encountered some of the following or similar problems during speaking activities in their classroom…”

Go to this article >>

Role play
Joanna Budden, British Council, Spain

“In this article I will outline several reasons for using role play in the classroom and I will offer some tips for getting the most out of role play.”

Go to this article >>

Find the gap – increasing speaking in class
Gareth Rees, teacher and materials writer, London Metropolitan University
“This article looks at how the notion of a gap between speakers can be used to provide a reason for communication. Finding ways to create gaps between students, gaps which need closing, creates speaking opportunities and prompts the creation of new activities.”

Go to this article >>

Teaching speaking skills
Rolf Donald, Eastbourne School of English, Teacher and Teacher Trainer
“Ways to prepare students for real spoken interaction…”

Go to this article >>

February 28, 2008 at 10:21 pm Leave a comment

The soap opera

Nik Peachey, Freelance teacher trainer, Writer, Materials designer, Morocco

In this activity students create a profile for a group of people and imagine their relationships to each other. They then construct a soap opera based around the characters and write a scene from the soap opera. This activity can be completed in one lesson or divided across a number of lessons if you feel your students need more support and correction.

Download copies of the photographs here or cut some of your own out of a magazine. You could give out magazines and scissors to students and ask them to cut out a number of people who they think look interesting. of people >> 339k zip

© All images are copyright Chris Tribble, King’s College, London University and used with his kind permission.


  • Put your students into groups of about 4 people, then give each group a copy of the pictures.
  • Ask the students to try to imagine who the people are and what they are like. This might be easier for some students if you stick the pictures onto a sheet of paper and then write the headings for the information you want at the side (e.g. Name, age, occupation, habits, hobbies, character etc)
  • Once they have done this ask them if they know what a soap opera is. Try to get some examples of ones that they watch.
  • Next ask them if they can think of things that most soap operas have in common (e.g. heroes, heroines, villains, drama – usually based around some kind of setting / workplace, etc.)
  • Next tell the students that all of the pictures they are holding are of characters from the same soap opera. Ask them to decide what the relationships between the people are and what role each of them has within the soap opera. Try to get them to decide what kind of setting the soap opera takes place in (e.g. in an office, on a ranch in a hotel etc.)
  • Next tell the groups that they should write a short scene involving as many of their characters as possible. You may well need to help out and input language for this, so be sure to monitor closely.
  • Lastly, if your students are confident enough, ask them to choose characters and act out the scene from their soap opera. You could video this and let them watch their performance or you could just take in the scripts and help to correct them.

February 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm Leave a comment

Fashion statements

Jo Budden, British Council, Spain

This is a staged discussion activity which focuses on students’ personal opinions of style and fashion.

This activity was originally published as part of a lesson plan on individual style. The activity first appeared on the Language Assistant website. The rest of the plan can be found here:


  • Before doing this activity, give your students some statements on the board and ask them if they agree or disagree.
  • Here are some example statements you can use:

Work in pairs and discuss whether you agree or disagree with these statements.

  • What you wear says a lot about your personality.
  • I spend a lot of time getting dressed in the morning.
  • I love buying new clothes.
  • I really don’t care about what I wear.
  • Comfort is the most important thing when choosing new clothes or shoes.
  • I hate having the same clothes as my friends.
  • It’s important to me to look different to my friends.
  • I love fashion magazines.
  • It’s important for me to be fashionable.
  • Second hand clothes can be cool.
  • Then ask them how much they agree or disagree with it. Draw a line on the board like this and fill in the space along the line with other expressions to express degrees of agreement.
  • In the middle you can have ‘neither agree, nor disagree’ etc.

Totally disagree ————————————————– Completely agree

  • Then put students in pairs or small groups to discuss to what extent they agree with the statements.



February 28, 2008 at 12:27 pm Leave a comment

Discussing Languages

Jo Budden, British Council, Spain

This is a discussion activity that you can use to find out about your students’ opinions of language learning and how important they think it is. It gets your students talking and sharing opinions but also gives you a chance to listen in and to understand their motivation and attitudes towards languages.

This activity was originally published as part of a lesson plan on languages. The activity first appeared on the Language Assistant website. The rest of the plan can be found here:

Make a copy of the discussion statements and cut tem into strips so those students can take one statement at a time and discuss it. Add some statements of your own if your students have specific language issues they may want to discuss.


  • Put your students into groups of four or five and give each group a statement.
  • Let them discuss the statement for a few minutes while you monitor and feed in any language they need.
  • Then rotate the statements around the groups.
  • Once all the students have discussed all the statements you might want to have a class vote to see what the consensus of opinion is on these statements and share some of your own opinions and insights.

Discussion statements

  • Everybody should speak at least two languages.
  • In the future there won’t be so many different languages in the world.
  • Tourists in my country should make an effort to speak my language.
  • Life would be easier if all countries spoke the same language.
  • I think learning languages is really important these days.
  • Girls are normally better at learning foreign languages than boys!
  • If languages disappear, different ways of thinking also disappear.
  • I would like to know more foreign languages.
  • Some languages are more important than others.
  • English is an ‘international language’.
  • Knowing foreign languages helps you to get a good job.


February 28, 2008 at 12:26 pm 1 comment

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