Conversation skills, what are they?

I once read somewhere that a conversation, in your own language, or in a second or third language, is like a marriage: it needs two people and lots of hard work to be successful! 🙂

There are many conversation schools in Japan, but I wonder if they are actually helping students to develop their conversational skills and strategies by actually teaching conversation.

The art of Japanese conversation is different from Western conversation, on many different levels. In my classes, we try to identify those differences and develop a more British approach to conversation

We usually identify 5 or 6 key factors for a successful conversation …

• Listen carefully
• Show interest
• Ask follow-up questions
• Add detail to your answers
• Take (short) turns
• Clarify (check) your understanding if not sure what your partner has said

Compare the following two extracts from conversations

1. This is from a conversation I had with a student yesterday.

Me: Did u have a good night on Sunday?
Student: Yes
ME: Did you go somewhere after the restaurant?
Student: Yes
ME: Oh! Errr … OK … well anyway …

Can you think of any ways that my student could have made this conversation more successful?

2. This is an extract from my interview with Sarah (which some of you may have listened to)

T: Right …and when you’re travelling in these places … like … do you meet many local people who are helpful or …Do you try and speak the language?
S: Yes … yes I do … Takedau I’ve met a few peple … and the people in the local restaurants are really friendly and kind … they can’t speak much English and my Japanese is rubbish … but they are really friendly …

How are Sarah’s answers different from my student’s?

Which of the 6 skills regarding good conversation practice is Sarah using?

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2 Responses to Conversation skills, what are they?

  1. Stella says:

    May I answer your question? Sarah added details to her answer. I think it also shows that she’s interested to prolong the conversation. In your first conversation, the student might not really be interested or he’s just got poor conversation skills. In our relationship with people, a good conversation is healthy because it helps it grow stronger as well.

  2. tonybrace says:

    I agree Stella. maybe I should give more context. The student in question had made it clear that she wanted to improve her conversation skills, and during a ten-week (30 hour) course, we had put aside some time in order to work on facets of good conversation. I think adding detail, as Sarah did, is no small part of this and was, therefore, something we spent considerable time on. However, on the first occasion that arose for a conversation between us outside of the classroom, that was the only response forthcoming – despite claiming to be interested.

    What is your interest in conversation Stella? If you don’t mind me asking. 🙂

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