Speaking: Language and Skills

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1. THEORY OF SPEAKING

This part, dealing with the theoretical background of speaking, aims to determine the position of the speaking skill among the other skills and to analyze the elements that speaking as a skill includes.

Speaking is as a language skill used as a communication tool to share ideas, feelings, opinions, thoughts, or information by using the target language. It is an interactive process of constructing meaning that involves producing, receiving and processing information. Nunan stated “that the success in learning a language is measured in term of the ability to carry out a conversation in the language.”[1] Second language learners should be able to learn speaking in order to increase and improve their ability to use English to communicate.

As Harmer claims, to be able to communicate means that people possess all four skills such as speaking, listening, reading and writing. However, Ur proposes that most of the learners´ intention is to learn how to speak so the greatest stress lies on developing speaking skills, which as Bygate maintains is underestimated skill in many ways. “Perhaps this is because we can almost all speak, and so take the skill too much for granted.” (Bygate, 1987,VII)

Considering speaking in a foreign language we also need to know “a certain amount of vocabulary and grammar”. (Bygate 1987, 3) Bygate also maintains that if learners want to accomplish the purpose of communication through speaking, they have to take two language aspects into consideration. These are the knowledge of language and the skill to use the language. The major difference between the knowledge and skill is that although both are comprehensible and memorisable, only a skill might be retreaded and drilled. (Bygate 1987, 4)

1. Speaking as a Skill

Bygate divides the speaking skill into two different components: motor-perceptive skills and interaction skills. As well as motor-perceptive skills, which “involve perceiving, recalling, and articulating in the correct order sounds and structures of the language” (Bygate 1987, 5) learners also need interaction skills which involve “making decisions about communication, such as: what to say, how to say it, and whether to develop it, in accordance with one´s intentions, while maintaining the desired relations with others.” (Bygate 1987, 6) These Interaction skills are affected by two conditions, according to Bygate. The first one, so called processing conditions, is connected to the internal conditions of speech. That means that speech occurs under the pressure of time. The second one, which we might call reciprocity conditions, involves the dimension of mutual interaction between the interlocutors.

The language skills are often divided into sub-skills, which are specific behaviours that language users do in order to be effective in each of the skills. Speaking has two sub-skills. These are pronunciation and intonation. (British Council[2] [online])

2. Relationship among Speaking and other Skills

According to Harmer, skills are in some way separable, which means that one day learners concentrate on one skill such as for example reading, and the next day on speaking only, etc. But as he claims, “in fact this position is clearly ridiculous for two reasons.” (Harmer 1991, 93) The first reason is that one skill cannot be accomplished without another skill. As an example, we rarely write without reading and we cannot have a conversation and use speaking skills if we do not listen. The second reason is that “people use different skills when dealing with the same subject for all sorts of reasons.” (Harmer 1991, 93) As an illustration, imagine a music critic, who goes to a concert where he listens to a new band, takes notes and then writes a review about it. The next day the critic describes the concert to his/her friends and reads them the article he wrote. In this illustration, we might see that people use different...
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