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Speaking and Listening Activities To Develop Communicative Skills Quickly

written by: Larry M. Lynch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

When a person wants to learn English or a foreign language, invariably they wish to speak the language and understand it when it is spoken or heard. Thus enter the need for speaking and listening activities in English. Here are some suggestions for speaking and listening activities.

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    To have a selection of communicative ability-developing activities, teachers can organize a series of English speaking and listening activities for second language learners such as those we’ll discuss here. These types of activities not only help English language learners but foreign language learners as well.

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    Diverse Speaking Activities

    The four basic communicative activities in language consist of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Some activities that make for interesting and diverse speaking activities include:

    • Conversation classes – provide guided and unguided speaking practice in English for language learners

    • Conversation clubs – this similar venue to conversation classes during which learners can practice speaking through oral practice offering opinions and comments on controversial topics.

    • Dialogues – a natural speaking forum that second language learners find simple and easy to engage in on a variety of topics. Dialogues can be pre-written, prepared by teachers or the learners and involve two, three or more learners at once in scenarios such as a job interview, a good waiter and difficult customer, or other contrasting roles.

    • Simulations and role-playing – a commonly used scenario in business and technical English classes, these provide near authentic speaking practice situations that help in preparing learners for real-life speaking situations.

    • Speaking practice games – turn-taking games during which learners give answers or comments on different topics or use selected grammatical structures are fun and motivating for learners.

    • Songs – can be used to practice vocabulary in an oral context, grammar elements and connected speech. The teacher can use songs to illustrate accents, lexis in context and pronunciation as well making songs a valuable addition to a series of listening and speaking activities.
    • Debates and discussions – with sufficient skill levels, second language learners can debate sides of an issue prominent in their city, region or country based on any theme. Debates are also great for training multiple aspects of speaking in all levels of learners.

    These and a variety of other speaking activities can contribute to learners making significant progress in their English speaking skills. Listening activities for second language learners are also important for skills development.

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    Diverse Listening Activities for Second Language Learners

    Second language learners can likewise greatly benefit from a series of diverse listening activities.

    • Podcasts – numerous podcasts updated from weekly to daily intervals are available online at several major sites. These cover a broad range of topic areas, themes and subjects from politics to science, art and news.

    • Old time radio programs – not only are these programs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s entertaining, but they are also interesting and useful tools for listening comprehension development with westerns, crime, comedy, variety and mystery genre programs available.

    • Short videos online – video-sharing websites abound offering English language learners a selection of available videos on virtually any topic of interest.

    • Movies and scene clips – another highly fruitful area for listening comprehension development is the use of clips from full-length movies. These can be used for prediction, debate, comprehension questions, illustrating accents, and language variations, grammar in context, and vocabulary or lexis in context, among other speech aspects.

    • Recorded audio speeches – many sites archive audio of speeches, reports, documentaries, dramas and other audio discourse forms. MP3s and other audio formats can even be downloaded to the learners’ personal multi-media devices and be listened to at the learners’ convenience outside of classes.

    • Documentaries – audio and video of documentaries are available either as a download or as online listening at websites of media production companies such as MGM, Universal, National Geographic, Discovery, Sony, Panasonic and Warner Brothers, to name a few.

    • Audio and video interviews – interviews are archived in the form of audios and videos online at literally hundreds of sites. With the large number of these available, second language learners have an extensive selection from which to choose to suit virtually any interest. Sites such as Michael Senoff’s marketing audio interviews and seminar collections and the top video sharing websites can prove to be invaluable resources for both teachers and learners.
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    Using These Activities

    Having a well-researched repertoire of speaking and listening activities in English is a boon for both the astute language teacher and second language learners. As such it is an indispensible tool which cannot be neglected. Here we have provided a start in acquiring a good selection of activities, but teachers should continue to expand their resources on an ongoing basis.

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