Principles and Techniques for Stimulating Foreign-Language Conversation


  • Michael D. Oates

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      MICHAEL D. OATES (Ph.D., Georgetown Univ.) is Associate Professor of French in the Dept. of Foreign Languages at the Univ. of Northern Iowa. He has taught at the high school level in Framingham and Malden, Massachusetts, and in the French Institute in Angers, France, for three summers. The recipient of a professional development leave awarded by the Univ. of Northern Iowa, he is currently spending the spring 1972 semester at the Centre de Linguistic Appliquée of the Univ. of Besançon, France. He has authored articles appearing in the Iowa Foreign Language Bulletin and the Utah Foreign Language Speaker, and has contributed one chapter to Current Issues in Teaching French. He is a member of ACTFL and AATF.


ABSTRACT  The principles and techniques most appropriate for carrying on pattern practice are not advantageous for encouraging conversational facility in the foreign language. Teacher behaviors for pattern-practice drills and other partial-skills exercises are made explicit in the voluminous teachers' manuals which accompany many modern textbooks. If a teacher follows them carefully, he can expect a measure of success during the rapid-fire structural-exercises part of the class. He should not, however, use these same techniques when his goal is to have students converse. If students are to develop the ability to converse, time must be set aside, during each class period, in which they are encouraged to express their feelings, tastes, and desires in the foreign language. The teacher's behavior is the key to the success or failure in this domain. Students who express themselves in the foreign language are more motivated to develop reading and writing skills as well. The raison d'tre of this article is to explain certain techniques which will help teachers to encourage active student use of the foreign language and therefore motivate students in their foreign language study.