Practical English Language Teaching: Speaking

Kathleen M. Bailey. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Pp. vii + 199.

Reviewed by Aysha Viswamohan and Hannah M. Sanala
Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Chennai, India

Designed for teachers who may or may not have had formal training in second and foreign language teaching methodology (p. vi), Bailey s Speaking, the fifth volume of McGraw Hill s Practical English Language Teaching series, is indeed a valuable resource for both beginning and experienced teachers in the profession who wish to grow as teachers in the area of speaking.

Eminently readable, the text complements the core (and first) volume of the series, Practical English Language Teaching, by delving deeper into the teaching of speaking than was possible in the first volume to acquaint experienced teachers with current theoretical and practical approaches to teaching speaking (p. vi) and is effectively divided into three sections: Introduction, Teaching Speaking at Different levels, and Key Issues in Speaking and Pronunciation.

The introduction, which comprises chapter 1, lays a foundation and provides the terminology for the rest of the text. After providing an in-depth definition of speaking, the author sets the historical background of the many approaches outlined in the book. This is followed by a methodical yet uncomplicated elucidation of each approach–the grammar translation method, the direct method, audiolingual method, communicative language teaching, and communication strategies–and concludes with counsel on the subject of assessment.

Chapter 1 is followed by three chapters that form the second section of the book, each of which begins by providing goals for the reader to focus on and then, using extracts and examples to illustrate the topics, offers step-by-step guidance on the teaching of speaking: syllabus design, principles of teaching, tasks and materials, teaching, speaking, and assessment, respectively. The chapters also clearly demarcate these subjects as they apply to three types of learners (beginner, intermediate, and advanced): general topics, pictures and sounds in chapter 2, more complicated activities using logic in chapter 3, and formal use of English in chapter 4. Each chapter also provides activities which are paced and detailed to suit the needs of the particular kind of learners and supplies examples in highlighted boxes to make the ideas explicit.

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to the goals that need to be set for beginner-level students and to the concepts of lower-level language, English as a foreign and second language, and Nunan s formula of memorizing formulaic expressions that need not be broken down into grammatical elements, for example, A little more slowly please or How do you say . . . ? Here, Bailey explains the importance of providing palpable topics, opportunities for group and pair work, communicative language teaching, and the physical arrangements of the classroom such as the inside-outside circle, tango-seating, and cocktail party. She also outlines speech events and activities suitable for the beginner-level learners: Guided conversation, interviews, information gap, jigsaw activities, scripted dialogues, drama, role-playing, logic puzzles, picture-based activities, and physical actions in speaking lessons. In the process of describing these, she draws attention to some important terminology. This chapter also focuses on the visual component of communication and on the phonetic nuances of the English language.

Chapter 3 addresses teaching intermediate level learners. In this chapter, Bailey, presents her ideas on the important points of syllabus design, principles of teaching, and speaking and assessment of speech, and illustrates several more important terms. The tasks Bailey illustrates as apt for intermediate level learners are role-plays, picture-based activities, logic puzzles, information gap, and jigsaw activities.

Chapter 4, the last chapter in section 2, provides a comprehensive guide to teaching speaking to advanced learners with the following tasks: Conversations and other interactions, information gap, jigsaw activities, picture-based activities, extemporaneous speaking, role-plays, and simulations. The chapter also explains more terms to further aid the novice teacher.

The last chapter makes up section 3 of the book and addresses several key issues: learners use of first language in the classroom, significance of speaking activities, learning styles, error correction, large classes, multi-level classes and using technology in teaching. Here, the author concentrates on metalanguage, wait time, turn overlaps, turn taking, learning styles, and backward build up. She also introduces the use of pronunciation tests, chat rooms, corpora and concordances, and computer-enabled functions that have much to offer the learning of speaking.

Afterwards, each chapter steers readers to reflect on the various hypotheses employed in the book, directs testing of these hypotheses, furnishes references and related websites, and concludes with a summary. Bailey then wraps up the book with an exhaustive glossary and index.

While certainly a complete text, Speaking is not without its shortcomings. A chapter on the current research practices in the area of teaching speaking and an accompanying CD would have been an additional benefit for readers. Nevertheless, ESL/EFL professionals will find that the book serves as an excellent guide for their empowerment and competence building in the area of teaching speaking, an ideal textbook for courses in ELT methodology, teacher training and lesson planning, and a highly recommended read for the practicing ELTician.