Literature, Spoken Language and Speaking Skills in Second Language Learning

Blog written by Christian Jones and originally posted on the fifteen eighty four blog

What’s the big question you are trying to tackle and to what extent will Literature, Spoken Language and Speaking Skills lead to new avenues of enquiry?

I am interested in how we can best understand spoken language and in connection to this, how second language learners can best understand /use spoken language and how they can develop their speaking skills. There are many reasons why people learn English as a second language but most learners want to interact with others in some way. They can do this, primarily, via the conversations they have with others.

This book seeks to explore how literature can be used as a model of spoken language and a vehicle to develop speaking skills. It presents research studies which look at this in different contexts and using different designs. Advocating the use of literature is not a new idea in second language learning but there is relatively little research which shows how it can help to develop spoken language or enhance speaking skills. This is one attempt to fill the gap. We hope this will lead to more studies which investigate the effects on spoken language awareness and enhanced speaking skills in the many and varied contexts in which second languages are learnt.

What really excites you about this field of research and keeps you enthused? How do you see it developing in the short to long term?

I think really, it’s trying to understand spoken language and the idea that in some small way this type of research may help somebody.
The development of spoken corpora have helped us understand what people say much more clearly than ever before. But there is much we do not fully understand. We know, for example, that discourse markers such as ‘like’ are very common in conversations, particularly among younger speakers but why has its use become so frequent?  How can second language learners learn to use/understand such items? Do they need to? How are such items shown in the conversations we find in literature and could these help with this process of understanding? Are such conversations more motivating from a pedagogical viewpoint than looking at corpus transcripts?

Perhaps a teacher or researcher may read one of the studies in this book and find the evidence convincing. This may push them to try using literature to develop speaking skills in their classroom, for example. Hopefully, this helps them, in a small way, to develop evidence-informed practice. A researcher may read a study and seek to build on it. This may help, again in a small way, to push research forward.

Read an extract here

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