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Speaking - Communicative Strategies - Beginning Dialogues
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Beginning a Dialogue
by Your Teacher 2008

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When you take a Speaking Test, and you have to do a dialogue, you and your partner(s) are given some general common information and then some different ideas so each can mention something different. For instance, if you are presented with the common “problem” of having to discuss a topic, the two of you will be instructed to speak about the same topic, in whichever context, but then each of you will have two or three points to mention in your conversation. Those points are meant to help you have something to talk about. If they instruct you to mention them, you have to, though. Usually the requirement is that you discuss each other’s points (don’t fight, don’t try to prevail, use rationality: listen, comment, pose your point) and then reach an agreement.

At the very beginning of your dialogue, it is important that you mention the setting you part from, who, why you are there, what for… so that the dialogue has an actual beginning. You can do this in various ways, and it depends on the instructions you are given.

EXAMPLE 1. Instructions (part of them): Your school is organizing a cultural week… Your teacher has asked you to think of ideas to develop in that week. …

Partial beginning, to be completed by partner
A: Hi, Martha! Do you remember we had some homework? – Here we are saying that both of us go somewhere together, where we have been given some assignment.

Basic info in one turn:
A: Hi, John! Did you come up with any ideas for our cultural week at school? – This beginning includes all the basic info, really.

Basic info in two turns:
A: Hi, Joan! Hey, I’m really excited. I managed to get some great ideas!
B: What are you talking about? (Just realized!) Oh no!!! I completely forgot! Our cultural week at school!

Basic info in four turns:
A: Another day at school… Thank God today we have a more entertaining activity!
B: What do you mean?
A: We’ve got a meeting to work out our cultural week! Don’t you remember?
B: Oh, yes! Have you got any ideas? / Did you come up with any ideas for that?

EXAMPLE 2. Instructions (part of them): Your boss has asked you to prepare a joint oral presentation about your company for an international meeting next month. … One of you would like to talk about your Department and the other prefers talking about the company. …

Basic info in a few turns, plus dealing with one of the points each person has to mention:
A: So, Miriam, we need to get together to work on our presentation…
B: Sure! But you see, I hate speaking in public, especially in front of an international audience!
A: Me too! But… We want to keep our post, don’t we? And anyway, it’ll be a good experience.
B: You’re right. The thing is, the topic! I don’t mind talking about what we do in our Department, but I hate talking about the company in general.
A: That’s interesting! I don’t. Hey, I could be first then. I could give an introduction on the company.
B: Great! And then I could move onto what we do here.

EXAMPLE 3. Instructions (part of them): Talk about climate change. …

Basic info in one turn:
A: Hi, Dave! Did you watch the news today? There was a news item about climate change…

A: One of the most commented/worrying topics this year is climate change. What do you think about this?

Basic info in a few turns:
A: Hi, Dave! Did you read the papers today?
B: Yes, why do you ask?
A: There was a really interesting article about floods.
B: Oh, I didn’t read that. But I think all that stuff about climate change is nonsense!
A: Really? Well, it said there has been a six-fold increase in floods since 1980…
B: Well, I believe Raoy’s cousin, you know? …