Spoken English

Spoken English :

This page on Spoken English is meant to be useful to those who have a sound knowledge of English Grammar. It is common knowledge that even some graduates of our Universities struggle for words and stumble into errors while speaking. This weakness is often attributed to lack of opportunities for speaking English ! While it may be true to a certain extent, it must be admitted that lack of WILL to learn or earnest efforts at speaking also contribute to deficiency in spoken English. Teaching of Grammar in the lower standards is said to be not upto the mark and where it is taught well, too much of emphasis is laid on teaching of rules and principles. While it may be useful in developing correct writing, it should be stressed that in many cases, formal Grammar has given place to colloquialism and usages which though not strictly grammatical are accepted in spoken English. For instance, MAY is generally used to indicate asking for or giving permission.

May I come in?
You may go.

These are more formal and correct.

Can I come in?
You can go.

But CAN as in these sentences is accepted in spoken English, though CAN has not the same significance as MAY.

Vocabulary or word-power is important to anyone who learns a language. But, mere acquaintance with words will offer little assistance or consolation when the problem of correct speech arises. It may help one to write well, but may not assist him in speech.

He wrote like an angel…. but talked like poor Poll.

This was the assessment of the great English writer, Oliver Goldsmith by his more illustrious contemporary, Dr. Samuel Johnson. This is true of many people even today. All good writers are not good speakers. They may often use the wrong words or inappropriate expressions in particular contests. There is also a tendency to sneak as one writes, in which case, it will be bookish or artificial.

Will you be kind enough to tell me the time? My watch has refused to work.

This sentence may be put simply thus…

What is the time please? My watch has stopped.

The idea is the same in both the expressions, but the latter is more natural.

Spoken English can be developed when it is taken together with Reading and Listening Skills. Reading skill can be achieved by finding the central thought of a passage, discovering the details that develop the idea, understanding the meaning of difficult words and assessing the technique used by the author. This will not be easy to achieve in the earlier stages. Here, the pupil can derive benefit from listening to others - teachers or experts in the language study. By listening to such, one can learn to speak, since one’s faculties to listen or read are sharpened.

In the earlier classes, students may be taught to listen and then repeat words or sentences, correctly pronounced. Wherever possible, recordings of speeches may be used to assist the teacher. When students are able to listen and comprehend, they may be encouraged to speak for a few minutes on a subject in which they are interested. Or the teacher may write out a dialogue, (between two) and then ask two of the pupils to speak the dialogue. The dialogue must be spoken and not merely READ. At a later stage, students themselves can be induced to carry on a conversation on topics of common interest. The teacher may be the Observer and at the end of the effort- by the students, the teacher may correct the mistakes committed This should be done in a manner that would not dampen the spirit of the students. If possible, two teachers may speak the same dialogue as was given to the students to serve as a model to be followed. Correct pronunciation, proper modulation of voice and proper gestures are of the essence of speaking and these should be developed.

In daily life, we come across different functions performed by people and every function has a specific type of language associated with it. Enquiries, invitations, introductions, complaints, suggestions - these are some of the functions requiring different forms of expressions to be effectively performed. Auxiliary verbs like can, could, may, might, will, would and shall and other words like do, that, how and what can be used to produce the necessary effect in the performance of such functions.

Some common errors in grammar and idioms are given. They will help one not only to speak well but also to write well. It is hoped that this page will enable students to speak English fluently and correctly.

Suggestions for the improvement of this will be welcome by the author.

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