Teaching Speaking in the Language Classroom

Christine Goh. Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Language Centre, 2007. Pp. ii + 48.

Reviewed by Zeng Yajun
National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University

Teaching Speaking in the Language Classroom by Christine Goh, part of the RELC Portfolio Series, presents an informed and principled approach to teaching speaking in the second language classroom. Allowing both teachers and students to work optimally in the classroom context with varied carefully prepared teaching activities and speaking tasks, the booklet, though only 48 pages, provides a valuable resource for teachers, teacher trainers, students in TESOL programs, and other language professionals who are keen to know more about how to teach speaking effectively in ESL/EFL classrooms in Asia.
Goh argues in the introduction that although speaking is now an essential part of many language curricula, it is probably true to say that while it frequently occurs in class, speaking is less frequently taught (p. ii), and thus she provides five chapters to explain how teachers can provide structured and guided learning experiences for language learners to develop their speaking competence, each of which contains reflection tasks to encourage readers critical thinking, figures to explain the construct of speaking and present current research findings, and illustrated teaching activities and models.
The first chapter offers essential theoretical perspectives in considering speaking as process, skill, and product. Chapter 2 focuses on fluency-oriented tasks for developing a range of speaking skills. In chapter 3, Goh introduces an informed pedagogical model. The model consists of a lesson sequence that includes the use of communicative tasks, language-focused activities, and further practice tasks that all work together to develop fluency, accuracy, and complexity in speaking performance. Goh contends the model serves as a proper way of sequencing speaking lessons and materials which are systematically based on cognitive principles of learning. To better inform classroom teaching practice, the author, in chapter 4, highlights recent research findings on spoken English and speaking performance by explaining the pedagogical relevance of spoken grammar, pre-task planning, and task repetition. The booklet ends by exploring useful ideas on how to improve language competence and thinking in small group discussions (chapter 5). Goh strongly believes discussion tasks can provide learners with an opportunity to communicate with one another on authentic issues while at the same time practice their speaking skills.
Written in an accessible and friendly style, practical and technique-oriented, and focused on both principles and procedures (p. i), this small but comprehensive booklet provides a very useful walk-through guide for readers who want to teach speaking more effectively and successfully in second language classroom.