Archive for the ‘teaching speaking skills to EAP’ Category

Learning English is about making connections and conversing! Learning English is about socialising!   9 comments



The multimedia materials proposed here are based on action research and sound educational theories that have been researched and tested

This is a ground breaking methodology that truly works. I’m so passionate about it that I want to make it freely available.




Teaching conversational English is not as easy or simple as it seems. It is not a question of just getting ESL/EFL students to talk, like getting them to talk about newspaper articles, or giving them conversation gambits. That way they don’t learn the nuts and bolts of  how people actually engage in a conversation, nor do they learn how conversation varies from speakers to speakers and how to adapt to different and new situations. In the methodology and books (teacher’s and student’s books) proposed here, we teach more than conversational English, we go at a deeper level and delve into interactional competence! Typically the questions that adults learners of English grapple with are:

How do you start/end a conversation?

What do you talk about?

How do you connect with others?



Conversation is very complex; it has rules, politeness and sociocultural norms (it’s culturally based). It also involves intonation (how the voice is used to convey meaning), and the body (e.g. facial expressions, eye contact, and distance between speakers, etc.). Conversationalists play differently roles, as they become speakers or listeners and display various identities (student, parent, friend, customer, etc.), which means that the language will change accordingly.  Conversing is not just about talking about any topic; it’s about making connections with others, in other words it’s about socialising and  negotiating different sociocultural norms of interaction in English. Teaching conversation means giving students the tools to enter the social world so they can communicate in English with ease, make friends, work and live a real life. It’s about developing their interactional competence in English.

Teaching conversation is a matter of teaching adult students how conversation actually works, how it is structured and orderly. This means that conversation has rules and norms that are often implemented subconsciously so that even native speakers can’t explain them but know them intuitively, and that’s why teaching conversation is so complex. Teaching conversation is also about making students aware that language and culture are intertwined  to develop intercultural competence so speakers from various backgrounds can communicate successfully with each other.

Teaching conversation is all explained through Conversation Analysis which gives ESL/EFL teachers/lecturers great tools to uncover what underlies casual conversation (how to start a conversation, how to keep a conversation going, how to express incomprehension or misunderstandings, how to change topics, how to use intonation, how to interpret silence, etc.) and institutional talk (talk conducted for an institutional purpose like teaching, workplace, medical encounters, service encounters etc.).

To see an example of how Conversation Analysis is used in the ESL class, have a look at this abstract below:

If you’re interested you can get a copy below:

I’m a teacher, researcher and conversation analyst. One of my colleagues at a tertiary institution confessed to me at the time when I was developing  these materials: “I don’t want to teach conversation, I wouldn’t know where to start” (Barraja-Rohan, 1997, reprinted 2000, p.67). Does this sound familiar?

I, Anne-Marie Barraja-Rohan and my co-author, C. Ruth Pritchard, have devised an innovative teaching methodology based on Conversation Analysis and elements of Politeness Pragmatics to teach oral communication skills. This methodology has been encapsulated in a course book titled Beyond Talk: A course in communication and conversation for intermediate adult learners of English published in 1997.

It has been written in plain English with a lay audience in mind. Key concepts are clearly explained. You don’t need to have a degree in Conversation Analysis to use it!

The course book Beyond Talk is a kit that contains a student’s book, teacher’s book, a DVD (with unscripted/naturally occurring videoed conversations with various Englishes – Australian, British and American) and a CD Rom with exercises on intonation etc. The course can only be taught with the DVD and CD. Interacting is not just verbal, it’s also visual and auditory.

Beyond Talk has been used for various purposes to teach oral communication skills to adult ESL/EFL students, in SLA for its use of authentic language, in intercultural studies for its focus on sociocultural norms of interaction, in applied linguistics as an application of Conversation Analysis and Politeness Pragmatics for the teaching and learning a second or foreign language.

At the moment there is no course book of this kind available on the market despite having been published in 1997!

This course book has been out of print shortly after its publication and is not commercially available. I have no financial interest in this publication, I’m not trying to sell anything here because I provide it for free! You can download it from this site if you go to the page Information on Beyond Talk. I simply want to make it widely available because I’ve had  such wonderful feedback on it from both students and teachers – see the pages on Comments by Academics and My Profile and Students’ Comments. Unfortunately no funds have been made available from the university to reprint it despite repeated requests from multiple parties including Prof. Emmanuel A. Schegloff, Prof. Johannes Wagner, Prof. Rod Gardner, Prof. Eva Alcón Soler, Prof. Numa Markee, Prof Jean Wong, etc. There is no legal implications for using this course book, the only requirement is to acknowledge the authors and publication.

Please feel free to browse through this site and read Beyond Talk‘s reviews, comments made by internationally acclaimed academics, practitioners (add your own too!) and other pages which give various information on Beyond Talk and myself.


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©Anne-Marie Barraja-Rohan and “Teaching ESL or EFL with CA”, 1997 to present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anne-Marie Barraja-Rohan and “Teaching ESL or EFL with CA” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.