How Students Acquire Communication Strategies:
Analysing Conversations between Japanese

Junior High School Students and an ALT

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Akio INUZUKA

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1 Introduction

It has been generally believed in Japan that grammar practice and vocabulary drills are enough to develop students' command of a foreign language.  With the progress of theory and practice in teaching English as a foreign language, however, Japanese teachers of English are now aware that students cannot acquire the ability to communicate in English without conversation training.  The question is whether this is enough.  Even if students learn grammar, vocabulary, and some useful expressions for conversation, there is still something missing: a lack of communication strategies.  Students need to learn how to restore face-to-face conversation when they meet a communication breakdown in their conversations. 

The aim of this study is to explore how to encourage students to acquire communication strategies in junior high school classrooms.  What is proposed for this purpose is to create a "communication unit," which is designed for individual students to have opportunities to talk face to face with an assistant language teacher (ALT).  After each conversation, students transcribe and evaluate their own conversations.   This may enable students to raise their awareness of communication strategies and attain communicative competence. 

In this study I would like to define the terms “communicative competence” and “communication strategies” in Chapter 2, and explain what the “communication unit” is in Chapter 3.  I want to propose with a detailed explanation of transcription and self-evaluation.   Two case studies will be examined to verify the hypothesis.  In Case Study 1, I will observe how one student acquires communication strategies.  In Case Study 2, I would like to find some tendencies concerning communication strategies adopted by three students who are in the different level of linguistic ability. 

 

2 What Are Communication Strategies? 

2.1 Communicative Competence 

Communication strategy is one of the components of communicative competence.  It is necessary, therefore, to define what communicative competence is.  The most well-known definition is Canale and Swain's (1980) and later in Canale's (1983) definition.  According to these scholars, four different components make up communicative competence.  The first two components reflect the use of the linguistic system itself; the last two define the functional aspects of communication.  They refer to communication strategies as “strategic competence” in their arguments.  The four components are as follows: 

 

1. Grammatical competence
 - the knowledge of the language code (grammatical rules, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, etc.).

 

2. Discourse competence
 - the ability to combine language structures into different types of cohesive texts (e.g. political speech, poetry).

 

3. Sociolinguistic competence
 - the mastery of the sociocultural code of language use (appropriate application of vocabulary, register, politeness and style in a given situation).

 

4. Strategic competence
 - the knowledge of verbal and non-verbal communication strategies which enhance the efficiency of communication and, where necessary, enable the learner to overcome difficulties when communication breakdowns occur.

 

Bachman (1990) proposed another model of communicative competence, which he called “language competence,” which he further divided into two subcategories: organizational competence and pragmatic competence.  Each subcategory has the following two components:

 

Language competence


  A  Organizational competence
   1. Grammatical competence
    - vocabulary, morphology, syntax, phonology
   2. Textual competence
    - cohesion, rhetorical organization


  B  Pragmatic Competence
   3. Illocutionary competence
    - functional aspects of language
   4. Sociolinguistic Competence
    - differences in dialect or variety, differences in register,

 naturalness, cultural references

 

The first two, grammatical competence and textual competence are equivalent to the first two competences defined by Canale & Swain (1983).  However, Canale & Swain's third competence, sociolinguistic competence, is divided into two categories in Bachman’s model: illocutionary competence and sociolinguistic competence.  Furthermore, Bachman adds strategic competence as an entirely separate element of communicative language ability.  Strategic competence works as the final decision using "knowledge structures," which is background knowledge speakers have plus "language competence." 

 

Strategic competence is seen as the capacity that relates language competence, or knowledge of language, to the language user’s knowledge structures and the features of the context in which communication takes place.  Strategic competence performs assessment, planning, and execution functions in determining the most effective means of achieving a communicative goal.

(Bachman 1990: 107)


    These two models of communicative competence have different concepts of "strategic competence."  However, both of the models show their importance.  Speakers compensate for breakdowns in communication using strategic competence.  I would like to define this element in greater detail, and include many communication strategies.

 

2.2 Communication Strategies

Tarone (1977), further elaborated by Tarone (1983), classified communication strategies as follows:

 

1. Paraphrase

 a. Approximation … use of a single target language vocabulary item or structure, which the learner knows is not correct, but which shares enough semantic features in common with the desired item to satisfy the speaker (e.g. pipe for water pipe )

 b. Word coinage … the learner makes up a new word in order to communicate a desired concept  (e.g. “airball” for balloon )

 c. Circumlocution … the learner describes the characteristics or elements of the objects or action instead of using the appropriate target language item or structure  (e.g. She is smoking something.  I don’t know what’s its name. )


2. Borrowing

 a. Literal translation … the learner translates word for word from the native language

 b. Language switch … the learner uses the native language term without bothering to translate

 c. Appeal for assistance … the learner asks for the correct term (e.g.  What is this?  What called? )

  d. Mime … the learner uses non-verbal strategies in place of a lexical item or action

 

3. Avoidance

 a. Topic avoidance … the learner simply tries not to talk about concepts for which the target language item or structure is not known

 b. Message abandonment … the learner begins to talk about a concept but is unable to continue and stops in mid-utterance

 

As indicated by Tarone’s use of the term, “the learner,” these strategies are used when second-language learners attempt to communicate with speakers of the target language.  In conversation, speakers and listeners have to work together to exchange a message.  Tarone (1983:65) explains as follows:   

 

I would like to broaden the definition of communication strategies; therefore, to make it clear that the term relates to a mutual attempt of two interlocutors to agree on a meaning in situations where requisite meaning structures do not seem to be shared. (Meaning structures here would include both linguistic structures and sociolinguistic rule structure)  Communication strategies, viewed from this perspective, may be seen as attempts to bridge interlocutor in real communication situations.  Approximation, mime, and circumlocution may be used to bridge this gap.  Message abandonment and avoidance may be used where the gap is perceived as unbridgeable.

 

As Tarone mentions above, there are strategies speakers use in order to convey their message and strategies speakers use to abandon the topic.   Avoidance strategies, however, are not necessarily negative as speakers use them to change the topic and pick up another line of conversation in which they are more interested. 

Tarone’s categories of communication strategies explained above are not, however, enough.  I would like to add some other categories from Celce-Murcia, et al (1995:28).  They suggest components of strategic competence as follows:

 

1.  Avoidance or Reduction Strategies

message replacement,

topic avoidance,

message abandonment

 

2.  Achievement or Compensatory Strategies

circumlocution (e.g. the thing you open bottles with for corkscrew)

approximation (e.g. fish for carp)

all-purpose words (e.g. things, thingamajig)

    non-linguistic means (mime, pointing, gestures, drawing

pictures)

restructuring (e.g. The bus was very… there were a lot of people

 on it.)  

word-coinage (e.g. vegetarianist)

literal translation from L1

code switching to L1 or L3

Retrieval (e.g. bro… bron… bronze)

 

3. Stalling or Time-gaining Strategies

fillers, hesitation devices and gambits, (e.g. well, actually…, where was I…?)

self and other-repetition

 

4. Self-monitoring Strategies

self-initiated repair (e.g. I mean …)

self-rephrasing (over-elaboration) (e.g. This is for students…

pupils… when you’re at school…)

 

5. Interactional Strategies

appeal for help

  direct (e.g. What do you call…?)

     indirect (e.g. I don’t know the word in English… or puzzled

expression)

meaning negotiation strategies

indicators of non/mis-understanding

requests

repetition requests (e.g. Pardon? Or Could you say that

again, please?)

clarification requests (e.g. What do you mean by…?)

confirmation requests (e.g. Did you say…?)

expressions of non-understanding

verbal (e.g. Sorry, I’m not sure I understand…)

non-verbal (raised eyebrows, blank look)

interpretive summary (e.g. You mean…? / So what you’re

saying is …?)

 

responses

      repetition, rephrasing, expansion, reduction, confirmation,

rejection, repair

comprehension checks

whether the interlocutor can follow you (e.g. Am I making

sense?)

whether what you said was correct or grammatical (e.g. Can

          I/you say that?)

whether the interlocutor is listening (e.g. on the phone: Are

          you still there?)

whether the interlocutor can hear you

 


    The underlined words are also used in Tarone’s categories.  In this study I would like to use Celce-Murcia, et al’s categories as a base and modify them taking junior high school students into consideration.  In the first place, I intend to put “avoidance strategies” and “time-gaining strategies” together to create “turn-taking strategies.”  When speakers want to avoid a topic or abandon a message in mid-utterance, they must start a new topic to advance the conversation.  Instead of emphasizing the negative, I would like to put an emphasis on the positive aspect of avoidance and abandonment as changing the topic to maintain the conversation.  Fillers and gambits in time-gaining strategies are also devices used to “hold the floor” in the conversation.  If a speaker utters the words, such as “well” or “you know,” the listener will not begin to talk.  In this sense, these can be included in “turn-taking strategies.”

     Secondly, it is necessary to combine “self-monitoring strategies” and “interactional strategies” to create “meaning-negotiation strategies.”  When a speaker is not confident that he has correctly conveyed the message, he will use an “I mean” sentence to make sure he is understood by the listener.  The speaker makes effort to send the message correctly.  On the other hand, appeals for help, repetition requests, expressions of non-understanding, and so on are the efforts the speaker makes to receive the message correctly.  Thus, these devices will be categorized as “meaning-negotiation strategies.”

     As a conclusion, I would like to define the communication strategies as simply as possible and call them “Communication Strategies for Junior High School Students (CSJ).” 

 

Communication Strategies for Junior High School Students (CSJ)

 

1.  Achievement Strategies

circumlocution  (CL) (e.g. the thing you open bottles with for corkscrew)

approximation  (AM) (e.g. fish for carp)

word-coinage    (WC)  (e.g. vegetarianist)

literal translation (LT)

non-linguistic means (NM) (mime, pointing, gestures, drawing pictures)

 

2. Turn-taking Strategies

  fillers  (FI) (e.g. well)

  gambits (GA) (e.g. actually…,)

topic avoidance (TA)              TA to maintain the conversation (TA-M)

message abandonment (MA)  MA to maintain the conversation (MA-M).
   follow-up questions (FQ)  

 

3. Meaning-negotiation Strategies

           appeal for help (AH)  (e.g. What do you call …?)

           repetition requests (RR)  (e.g. Pardon?)

           expressions of non-understanding (EN)  (e.g. Sorry, I don’t understand.)

           response (RE)  (repetition, confirmation, rejection)

           comprehension checks (CC)  (e.g. Am I making sense?)

 

 

These fifteen skills are the communication strategies which junior high school students need to use when communication breakdowns occur or to make the conversation smoother.

 

          I want to use Table 1 to check appearance of communication strategies in students’ conversations.

Table 1

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Communication Unit

3.1 Students

The students I deal with in this study are all 8th graders.  I taught them a communication unit called "One-minute Conversation" and gave them chances to speak with an ALT for one minute each.  Below are two examples: a communication breakdown in Example 1 and "one-way conversation" in Example 2.   

Let us examine Example 1.  The words “crawl” and “butterfly” were pronounced with a heavy Japanese accent, and the word “play” was used improperly with “crawl” and “butterfly.”  The inappropriate pronunciation and collocation confused the ALT and led to a misunderstanding.  If he had not been shown a picture of swimming, he could not have understood the situation at all, and thus the conversation would have stopped.  The ALT took remedial action to understand the student and continue the conversation.  Why did the student fail to do something to continue the conversation?  This is presumably because he was not equipped with the appropriate communication strategies.

 

Example 1 S=male student, A=ALT =communication breakdown

 S: I can swim very well.  Can you swim?
 A: Yes, I can.
 S: I can play crawl and butterfly.  Do you play crawl and butterfly?
 A: Do I play …? ★
 S: Do you play crawl and butterfly?
 A: No, I don't think so.  Please show me.  Crawl?  I don't know.  Is it a game? … (ALT is shown a picture.) Oh, crawl and butterfly. (using gestures) Yes, yes.  I was very good at school.  Is butterfly your best?
 S: Yes.
 A: Me, too.
 S: That 's great.


    Now please refer to Example 2 below.  The student was able to start the conversation but as soon as the reply came back she stopped.  The conversation then continued only with questions from the ALT and answers by the student, sometimes non-verbal, sometimes only “yes” or “no”.  The ALT took the initiative here again to continue the conversation.  The student did not have sufficient strategic competence.  Even though she had a picture to show, she had no opportunity to exhibit it.  All of her faculties were focused on listening to and answering the questions posed by the ALT.

 

Example 2   S=female student, A=ALT ★=communication breakdown

 S: You can play the musical instrument?
 A: Yes. I can play the guitar a little.  How about you?
 S I can... ★
 A:: Can you play musical instruments?
 S: I can play the horn.
 A: Horn?  Oh, I see.  Very good.  And do you play it very well?
 S: No.
 A: What music do you like?
 S: ...? (thinking)
 A: Do you like rock music?
 S: ... (nods) 
 A: What rock do you like?
 S: ... (smiles)
 A: Do you like B'z?
 S: Yes, I do.
 A: I see.  Very good.  Do you like GLAY?
 S: Yes, I do.
 A: Very good.  L’arc?  L’arc-En-Ciel?
 S: No, I don't.
 A: No?

 

As these examples show us, it is necessary for junior high school students not only to learn expressions and vocabulary, but also communication strategies.  When students do not understand what is said, they must ask for repetition.  When they cannot express themselves satisfactorily, they must paraphrase, use gestures, or show pictures.  When the conversation becomes a series of questions posed only by the ALT, students must know how to initiate their turn and perhaps start a new topic with which they are familiar.  I came to feel the necessity to teach communication strategies in English classes.

 

 

3.2 Communication Unit ... with Tape Transcription

In this study I set up a “Communication Unit” as shown in Table 2 consisting of eight English class periods.  Students were given three opportunities to converse with an ALT, each time on a new topic, with two minutes for each conversation.  As soon as each student finishes the conversation, he transcribes it using a cassette tape.  This step, which has students reflect on their conversation, is a new attempt and works well.

 

Table 2

period

content

First Conversation with an ALT…topic: Golden Week (past events)

and Tape Transcription

Tape Transcription and Self-evaluation

Communication Strategy Drill (FQ)

Second Conversation with an ALT… topic: place I want to go

and Tape Transcription

Tape Transcription and Self-evaluation

Communication Strategy Drill (RR, EN, AM, NM, TA-M, FI)

Third Conversation with an ALT… topic: summer vacation (future events)

and Tape Transcription

Tape Transcription and Self-evaluation

           FQ, RR, EN, etc. are the strategies in CSJ.


    Why does tape transcription work well?  Nolasco & Arthur (1987) take “using tape recorders” a good device for language learning feedback.  They report as follows:

 

The use of tape recorders can play an important part in providing diagnostic information, and the recording of students during conversation lessons makes it much easier for the teacher to identify areas of weakness which can form the basis of subsequent lessons focusing on accuracy, the presentation of new language, etc.  Other advantages of the use of tape recordings of students at work include:

 ---the opportunity for students to hear again their own performance

and that of other students;

---the opportunity to look objectively at how students develop over a

period of time.  If you can obtain a recording of students at the

beginning of the course this can be used as a basis for comparison at

different stages of the course to illustrate progress.  This can be

important for confidence and morale when motivation begins to sag,

since most people improve far more than they themselves realize.

(Nolasco & Arthur 1987:119)

 

Listening to their own conversations, students can notice the good points and bad points of their conversations.  Sharing students’ self-evaluation, they can raise the awareness of the important skills; in this case, communication strategies.  Even if we teach the students communication strategies, students cannot acquire them without becoming aware of the necessity and effectiveness of these strategies.  I would like to clarify this in this study. 

 

3.3 Hypothesis

The following is the hypothesis which should be made clear in this study.

 

Through the tape transcription step, students can raise their awareness of communication strategies and begin to use them.

 

4 Case Study 1: Observation of Student One through the Unit

This chapter shows activities in each class and what the students did and thought in each class.  I would like to bring into focus the efforts of one student (showed as Student 1 or S1) as she works through the whole unit, as a sample.

 

4.1 First Period ... First Two-minute Conversation with an ALT 

 

Example 3 ...S1's First Conversation with an ALT

  (A=ALT, I =Student 1, =communication breakdown)

A: Good morning.                
I
Good morning.
A: How are you?

I: I’m fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking. Ah...  What did you do for Golden Week?
I: I went to spa with my family and cousin and grandmother and grandfather.
A: You went where?
I: Spa.
A: Spa?  Oh, spa.  Where is the spa?
I: Gero.
A: Gero?
I: Gero.
A: In Aichi?
I: No.
A: No?  Where...  What prefecture is the spa… is Gero in?
I:
Gifu
.A: I see.  Was it very nice?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  Were there many people at spa?
I: ...

A: Many people? ...So so?
I: So so.
A: So so, I see.  And ah, let’s see.  Do you have a question for me?
I: What did you do for Golden Week?
A: I went to Kariya Sougou hospital every day.
I: Why?
A: Because my wife was in the hospital.  Because she was pregnant.   And she had a baby boy.  Thank you very much.


    This is the students’ first attempt to have a two-minute conversation with an ALT.  In the previous year, the students experienced a one-minute conversation.  At that time they had difficulty maintaining the conversation even for short time.  Students would prepare their first question and then just answer the ALT's questions after they’d asked their first prepared question.  Now, this year in this communication unit, students have two minutes.  Many students have a difficult time just answering the ALT's questions.  See Student 1's conversation (Example 3) above.  In the first half of the conversation, she answers "I went to spa with my family…” to the question “What did you do for Golden Week?"  She is then asked in more detail about the spa, but has difficulty answering the question.  Her answers become one word sentences.  And when the ALT asks her, “Were there many people at spa?” not having learned “there is” sentences, she does not understand and cannot answer him.  Then communication breaks down.  She does not know what to do.  The ALT gives examples of potential answer and thus is total communication breakdown avoided.  In the second half of the conversation, the ALT gives her a long answer after her question.  Student 1 can ask only "why?”  The time expires before the student can respond to the ALT’s answer.

Student 1 does not use any communication strategies in this conversation.  She has an opportunity to use “expressions of non-understanding (EN)” or “repetition request (RR)” upon the communication breakdown, but she was unequipped with the techniques.  Table 3 indicates her situation:

 

Table 3

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown

 

 

4.2 Second Period... Conversation Analysis

Students transcribe their conversation with the ALT.  Student 1 does a good job on the transcription and self-evaluation and describes in Japanese the good point of her conversation as follows:

 

Example 3.1 …Student 1’s transcription

(Students’ transcriptions omit the greeting part.)

 

A: What did you do for Golden Week?

I: I went to spa with my family and cousin and grandmother and grandfather.

A: You went where?

I: Spa.

A: Where is the spa?

I: Gero.

A: In Aichi?

I: No.

A: What prefecture is the spa is Gero?

I: Gifu.

A: I see.  Was it very nice?

I: Yes.

A: I see.  Were there many people at spa?  So so?

I: So so.

A: Do you have a question for me?

I: What did you do for Golden Week?

A: I went to Kariya Sougou hospital every day.

I: Why?

A: Because my wife was in the hospital. Because she was pregnant and she had a baby boy.

 

 

良かったところ

会話をする前に話題を考えていたから、よかったと思う。トレビーの顔を見て話せたから良かった。

うまくいかなかったこと

途中でトレビーの言っていることが分かんなくて会話が止まってしまったところが失敗してしまったと思いました。だから今度の会話の時は止まらないように、分かんなかったらそのことについてトレビーに何て言ってるか聞きたいです。

 

Good points:

I think it was good to think of the topic before the conversation.  I can talk with Trevy (ALT) using eye contact. 

Bad points:

During the conversation, there was a communication breakdown because I could not understand what the ALT said.  So, next time I want to make every effort not to stop in the middle of the conversation.  When I don't understand Trevy, I want to ask him what he says.

(translated by the author)

 

Student 1 does not describe the communication breakdown in her transcription, but she notices it and the necessity of communication strategies.  In her evaluation, she concludes that the communication breakdown in the conversation takes place because she cannot understand what the ALT says.  When she does not understand him well, she wants to ask him what he says.  There she notices the necessity of “repetition request (RR)” among communication strategies.  Table 3.1 shows this:

 

Table 3.1

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing


4.3 Third Period... Study of Follow-up Questions

This class starts with each student's analysis of his or her conversation. They describe their good points and bad points with their pair partner.  After exchanging each other's analyses, students talk about ways to improve their conversation.  They notice the following situation: students ask questions which they prepared and go on to their next question without responding to the ALT’s answers.  Students begin to understand the necessity of "follow-up questions (FQ)."  Then, the teachers show a model of a conversation in which follow-up questions are used.  Students practice a conversation focusing on follow-up questions, simultaneously talking and writing sentences down in order to make sure that follow-up questions are used.  The teachers can read and check how well students use the follow-up questions.  Look at the following conversations between Student 1 and 2.  See Example 4.

 

 

Example 4 Conversation between S1 and S2

Where do you want to go?

Where did you go?

S1: Where do you want to go?
S2: I want to go to
Okinawa.
S1: Why do you want to go there?
S2: I wan to go play swim.
S1: Do you play swim well?
S2: Yes.
S1: Who went to go with?
S2: My family.
S1: Are you have been to in
Okinawa?
S2: Yes.

S1: Where did you go?
S2: I went to
Hokkaido.
S1: Why did you go there?
S2: I went to travel.
S1: Who did you go with?
S2: with my family.
S1: How long were you there?
S2: I don't remember.
S1: What did you play in
Hokkaido?
S2: Travel.

Where do you want to go?

Where did you go?

S2: Where do you want to go?
S1: I want to go to
America.
S2: Why do you want to go there?
S1: Because I go to Disney World.
S2: Who do you want to go with?
S1: I want to go my friends.
S2: Are you been Disney World?
S1: No, I'm not.

S2: Where did you go?
S1: I went to
Australia.
S2: Why did you go there?
S1: Because I lived with Australian family.
S2: Were you enjoy there?
S1: Yes.
S2: When did you go there?
S1: I went to winter vacation.

 

Students start the conversation with two different questions: “Where do you want to go?” and “Where did you go?”  They use similar conversational patterns, but they seem to understand how to continue asking questions.  The question "Where do you want to go?" is the theme of the second conversation with the ALT, so it becomes good practice for that.

Students learned “follow-up questions (FQ).”  Table 3.2 shows Student 1’s learning situation.

Table 3.2

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing □=communication strategy drill


4.4 Fourth Period ... Second Conversation with the ALT

Each student comes to the ALT and talks with him for two minutes.  The following is a conversation with Student 1 and the ALT (See Example 5).

 

Example 5 S1's Second Conversation with the ALT

A: Good morning.
I: Good morning.
A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking.  Ah, where do you want to go?
I: I want to go to
America.
A: Ah, very good.  Why?
I: Because I want to Disney World.
*1
A: Disney World in
Florida?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  And ah, do you want to go to Universal Studios Florida?
I: No.
A: No.  Why?
I:...
★ I don't know.  (MA)
A: OK.  I see.  What food will you eat in
America?
I: Hamburger.
A: Hamburger?  I see.  And do you like hamburgers?
I: Yes.
A: Which do you like better, Mac or Moss?
I: Mac.
A: Mac.  I see.  And ah, do you have a question for me?
I: ...Where do you want to go?
A: I want to go to ...
Kobe.
I: Why?
A: Because
Kobe is very clean and beautiful city and there is a very nice night view and I want to go to China town.  Where do you want to go in Japan?
I: I want to go to
Okinawa.
A: Very good.  Thank you very much.

 

In the first half of the conversation, Student 1 answers a little better than before. To the second question from the ALT, she can answer in longer length than before, although it is not grammatically correct (See *1).  There is a communication breakdown after that.  For students, answering “why-questions” is not easy.  She cannot explain why she does not want to go to Universal Studios Florida and, after some deliberation, says, “I don’t know.”  This is “message abandonment (MA).”  It is one of the communication strategies, but it is not used positively here.  “Message abandonment to maintain the conversation (MA-M)” would have been a more appropriate strategy.  She should add one more phrase to maintain the conversation.

In the second half of the conversation, she asks him, “why?” but it is the only follow-up question she can use.  She may want to ask more, but the ALT gives her a question before she tries the follow-up questions.  When the ALT’s questions are quick or his answers are long, the students find it difficult to maintain their side of the conversation.  The skillful use of follow-up questions is not easy to acquire.

Student 1’s learning situation is described in Table 3.3.  There is a communication breakdown concerning the “message abandonment.”

 

Table 3.3

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

1st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

2

nd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing □=communication strategy drill

 

 

4.5 Fifth Period.... Second Conversation Analysis

Student 1 does very well in transcribing the conversation from the cassette tape.  She takes notes, listing the good and bad points of her conversation, as follows:

 

Example 5.1 …Student 1’s transcription

(Students’ transcriptions omit the greeting part.)

 

A: Where do you want to go?

I: I want to go to America.

A: Why?

I: Because I want to Disney World.

A: In Florida.

I: Yes.

A: Do you want to go to Universal Studios in Florida?

I: No.

A: Why?

I: I don’t know.

A: What food were you eat in America?

I: Hamburger.

A: Do you like hamurger?

I: Yes.

A: Which do you like hamburger, Mac or Moss?

I: Mac.

A: Do you have a question for me?

I: Where do you want to go?

A: I want to go to Kobe.

I: Why?

A: Because Kobe is very clean and beautiful city and very nice night view and I want to go to China town.

I: Where do you want to go in Japan?

A: I want to go to Okinawa.

 

 

 

良かったところ

前は会話が途中で止まってしまったり少ししかできなかったけど、今回の会話は会話があまり止らないでできたと思うし、けっこういっぱい話ができたと思います。トレビーが言っていることも分かったと思いました。

不満足なこと

質問をして答えがかえってきたら、その次何を質問したらいいか分からなくてその話が終わってしまったから、1つの話題についてくわしく話しがしたかったです。だからもっと会話が続くように質問したらどんな答えがかえってくるか考えて、次何を言うかまた考えたいです。

 

Good points
     In the previous conversation I stopped in the middle, but this time I could keep up with the conversation well.  I could talk a lot.  I understood what the ALT said.
 Bad points
     I asked a question and the ALT answered it.  I did not know what to ask next.  So the conversation stopped there.  I wanted to keep on talking on one topic.  I want to guess how he will answer and prepare the next question.

(translated by the author)

 

In the first half of the conversation, Student 1 keeps on talking smoothly about “America,” her favorite topic.  Student 1 seems to be satisfied when she compares this with her first conversation with the ALT.  

She reflects on the second half of the conversation.  Because she cannot keep asking, she wants to forecast the ALT’s answers and prepare follow-up questions.  She notices the lack of “follow-up questions (FQ)” in her conversation and the necessity of such conversation techniques.   Table 3.4 shows her learning situation.

 

Table 3.4

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 2

nd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing □=communication strategy drill

 

 

4.6 Sixth Period ... Preparation for Third Conversation

       This is the final chance to prepare for the third and final conversation, so we discuss strategies and relevant concerns.  Students introduce their analysis of their own conversation and discuss the more important things.  The conclusion in their discussion is that it is important “to avoid pauses or silence in conversation.”

 

会話の「間」をなくそう

●間が空いてしまうときとは、

 @ 相手の言っていることがわからないとき

    すべてがわからないときは、  Pardon?  Excuse me?

    単語がわからないときは、   What is ○○?

    「わかりません」と言う    I don’t understand.

 A 自分の言いたいことが英語にできないとき

    単語を並べてみる

    ジェスチャーを使う

 B どうやって話題を続けていいのかわからないとき

    自分のことを言う

●会話を自分のペースにもっていこう

 @ 言いたいことがあるのに、相手にしゃべられてしまう

    今からしゃべりたいことを意思表示する 

     (例) 言葉で表す  Ah,

         ジェスチャーで表す

         絵や写真を見せる

 A 自分の得意な話題にもっていく

    野球の好きな人は、野球の話題で話す

    音楽の好きな人は、音楽の話題で話す

Let’s eliminate the “pause” in the conversation

Why is there the “pause”?

1. Because you don't understand what the ALT says.
   If you don't understand him at all, ask "Pardon?” or

 “Excuse me?"
   If you don't understand some words, ask him “What is ...?"
   If you are completely lost, tell him “ I don't understand”

2. Because you cannot say what you want to say in English.
   You don't have to make grammatically perfect sentences. 

Say the words you know and try to send the message.
   You can use gestures.

3. Because you have no idea how to keep the conversation topic.

You can talk about yourself.

Let’s take an initiative in the conversation.

1. When the ALT keeps on asking questions you even though you have

something to say,
         Try to express that you want to say something.
        For example, say "Ah,”or use gestures, or showing him/her

something.

    2. Change the topic to your favorite one.

              If you like baseball, talk about baseball.

              If you like music, talk about music.

(translated by the author)


    In the next phase, the students forecast and prepare for the next conversation.  Students do “brain storming” using a “map.”  They write “in summer vacation” at the center of the paper and around that what they did and what they want to ask the ALT.  Students can use a dictionary to look up unknown words or can ask a teacher.  Then students make a list of questions and answers, which they expect to use in their conversation.

Through this lesson, students learn communication strategies:

“Pardon?” is repetition request (RR);  “What is ..?” is appeal for help (AH); “I don’t understand” is expression of non-understanding (EN); to say the words you know is circumlocution (CL) or approximation (AM); to use a gesture is non-linguistic means (NM); to change the topic and talk about yourself is topic avoidance to maintain the conversation (TA-M) or message abandonment to maintain the conversation (MA-M); and “Ah,..” is filler (FI).  Most of the communication strategies are introduced here.  See Table 3.4 as Student 1’s learning situation.

 

Table 3.4

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

nd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing □=communication strategy drill

 

4.7. Seventh Period ... Third Conversation with the ALT

 

Example 6  S1's Third Conversation with the ALT

A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking.  So where are you going for summer vacation?
I: I'm going to go to
Guam.
A:
Guam?  Fantastic.  For how long?
I: 3 nights 4 days.
A: Who are you going with?
I: ...

A: Who.. with?
I: Pardon?
 (RR)
A: Who ... who OK?  Who are you going with?
I: My family.
A: With your family?  How many people in your family?
I: Four.
A: Four people?  Oh, great.  And ah, do you like the ocean?
I: Yes.
A: Will you swim in the ocean?
I: Yes.
A: Oh, very good.  Do you have a question for me?
I: What are you going to do in summer vacation?
A: I'm going to go to
Nagoya.
I: For what are you going to go?
A: I'm going to go for shopping.  I want to buy some CDs at HMV and some books at Kinokuniya and I want to eat garlic ryori at Ninnikuya.  Do you know Ninnikuya?
I: No.
A: No?  It's a very good restaurant.  Do you like garlic?
I: No.
A: No?  I can't believe it.  Thank you very much.

 

In the first half of the conversation Student 1 is asked, and fails to understand the question "Who are you going with?"  At that time she manages to say, "Pardon?"  She can use “repetition requests (RR)” here.  Then, the ALT checks her understanding by saying, "Who... who OK?"  Student 1 successfully recovers. 

In the second half of the conversation, she starts the question, “What are you going to do in summer vacation?” and follows up quickly after his answer with “For what are you going to go?”  She improves in follow-up ability.  Unfortunately she cannot continue with follow-up questions because the ALT turns the questioning around with “Do you know Ninnikuya?”  She only responds after that.

She finally acquires the communication strategies and uses one of them, “repetition request (RR)” in this conversation.  Because of that, she can avoid communication breakdown and keep the conversation going.  See her learning situation in Table 3.4.

 

Table 3.4

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

nd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

rd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

=communication breakdown ◎=noticing □=communication strategy drill

 

 

4.8 Eighth Period.... Final Conversation Analysis

Student 1 again does a competent job of transcribing her conversation.  Evaluating her three conversations, she makes these observations:

 

Example 6.1 …Student 1’s transcription

(Students’ transcriptions omit the greeting part.)

A: Where are you going for summer vacation?

I: I’m going to go to Guam.

A: Guam?  Fantastic.  How long?

I: 3 nights 4 days.

A: Who are you going with?

I: Pardon?

A: Who are you going with?

I: My family.

A: How many people in your family?

I: Four.

A: Four people?  Oh, great. Do you like ocean?

I: Yes.

A: What you swim in ocean?

I: Yes.

A: Do you have a question for me?

I: What are you going to do in summer vacation?

A: I’m going to go to Nagoya.

I: For what are you going to go?

A: I’m going to go for shopping I want to buy some CDs at HMV and some books at Kinokuniya and I want to eat garlic at Ninnikuya.  Do you know Ninnikuya?

I: No.

A: It’s a very good restaurant.  Do you like garlic?

I: No.

 

 

 

できるようになったこと

前回よりも間が少なかったと思います。あとトレビーの言ってる内容もほとんどわかりました。

テープおこしの感想

よかったところは、会話をしていてどこが悪いのか気づけたし、どんな会話をしていたかが分かったのでよかったです。気づいたところは、前の2回よりも会話の中で笑いながら話していたことです。それと前よりもスムーズにできていたと思います。

役に立った活動

テープおこし。

What I was able to do
I made fewer silences or pauses than before.  I understood almost all of what the ALT said.

About transcription
I was able to find the problems with my conversation.  I could understand how I carried on the conversation.  I noticed that I felt relaxed and laughed more than before.  And my conversation became more natural. 

Useful activity

Tape transcription.

(translated by the author)

 

Student 1 gets used to conversing with the ALT and feels relaxed enough to smile.  She notices an increase of fluency and a reduction in pauses.  When she has the conversation, she does not have enough time to reflect on and understand what the ALT said, but listening to the tape, she becomes aware of areas to improve.  Transcription helps the students to identify problems and discover communication strategies. 

 

4.9 Conclusion of Case Study 1

       As Table 3.4 clearly shows, transcribing the tape raises Student 1’s awareness of communication strategies and she actually begins to use one of the strategies.  Student 1 has trouble in her first conversation with the ALT.  She pauses after being asked a question by the ALT.  She does not know what to do at that time.  She cannot use “repetition requests (RR)” or “expressions of non-understanding (EN).”  Through transcription and self-evaluation, she reflects, “If I don’t understand Trevy, I want to ask him what he says.”  She notices the necessity of “repetition requests (RR)” here.  She does not have a chance to say, “Pardon?” in her second conversation, but she can use it in her third conversation.

After the second conversation, Student 1 mentions that: “I asked a question and the ALT answered it.  I did not know what to ask next.  I wanted to keep on talking on one topic.  I want to guess how he will answer and prepare the next question.”  This shows how deeply she notices the importance of “follow-up questions,” which is taught in the previous lesson.  Actually, she improves in follow-up questioning ability in the third conversation.

         By transcribing the conversation, Student 1 notices her weak points, especially concerning communication strategies, and not just grammatical mistakes and lack of vocabulary.  It is safe to conclude, therefore, that transcription creates awareness of communication strategies.  Actually, she starts to use some of them in the conversation later on.

 

5 Case Study 2: Analysing the Three Students' Conversations

          The conversations between the students and the ALT illustrate that there are different tendencies in using communication strategies, depending upon the level of students’ linguistic ability.  This chapter will examine three students, Student 3 as an elementary level student, Student 4 as an intermediate level student, and Student 5 as an advanced level student, and clarify their tendencies.

 

5.1 Student 3 - Elementary Level Student's Change

          Look at Examples 7 to 9 below.  They are the scripts of the conversations between Student 3 and the ALT.  We can notice that Student 3 makes grammatical mistakes and that most of her utterances consist of one-word sentences.  In addition, she repeats some sentences which the ALT whispers to her.  She needs a lot of help from the ALT, who leads most of the conversation.  Student 3 always answers “Yes” or “No.”  She does not use any communication strategies in Examples 7 and 8.  In Example 7, there are two communication breakdowns.  Both of them occur because she cannot understand what the ALT says.  She should use “repetition requests (RR)” or “expressions of non-understanding (EN).”  In Example 8, she has one communication breakdown.  The situation is the same as Example 7.  However, at the very end of Example 9 (See *1.), she says, “Library?”  She does not understand the word “library.”  So she tries to ask what “library” means.  This is an example of “appeal for help (AH)” in meaning-negotiation strategies and it is taught in the previous lesson.  She confirms the word by repeating what she heard.  Then the ALT explains the meaning using Japanese, too.  We observe that she gains the use of one communication strategy through this whole unit.  

 

Example 7 S3's First Conversation with the ALT

Example 8 S3's Second Conversation with the ALT

Example 9 S3's Third Conversation with the ALT

A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.
 And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking.  Ah, so what did you do for Golden Week?
I: Ah,.... Nabananosato.
A: I
I: I go went to Nabananosato.
A: I see.  Did you go to the begonia garden?
I: Yes.
A: And was it nice?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  What flower do you like?
I: Ah, ... cosmos.
A: Cosmos.  I see.  And who did you go with?
I: ... ...

A: One time I went, I went with my girl friend.  Who did you go with?
I: family.
A: With your family?  I see.  And did your father go?
I: No.
A: No.  So please tell me who in your family went.
I: ... ...
 ★
A: (whispers) my mother
I: My mother and
A: (whispers) brother
I: brother
A: Your brother?  So three?
I: Yes.
A: Was it fun?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  All right.

A: Good morning.
I: Good morning.
A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Good.  Thank you for asking.  Where do you want to go?
I: I went to go to ...
Australia.
A:
Australia.  Why?
I: ... ...

A: (whispers) because
I: Because ... kangaroos.
A: Because of kangaroos.  Ah, do you want to eat kangaroos?
I: No.
A: No?  Ah, do you want to see kangaroos?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  Do you like koalas?
I: ... Yes.
A: Do you want to eat a koala?
I: No.
A: OK.  Let's see....  Do you like swimming?
I: .. Ah, No.
A: Ah, it's too bad.  In
Australia there are many good places to swim.
I: OK.
A: Do you have a question for me?
I: ... ...
A: (whispers) Where do you want to go?
I: Where did you went to go?
A: I want to go to ...
England.
I: Why?
A: Because I want to go to a punk rock show and I want to visit Shakespeare’s house, and maybe I want to go to
Buckingham Palace.  Thank you very much. Good work.

A: Good morning.
I: Good morning.
A: How are you?
I: How are you?  I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking.  So how are you t
oday?  Ah, I have just asked you.  I'm sorry.  So where are you going for summer vacation?
I: ...ehhhh, ehhhhh,
A: I'm going..
I: I'm going to house.
A: You going to your house?
I: hai, Yes.
A: Really?  So you are not going to
Osaka?
I: No.
A:
Tokyo?
I: No.
A: Nowhere.  Ahhh.  So will you come to school?
I: Ah,... No.
A: No?  Will you come to school?
I: Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes.
A: Why?
I: ... bukatsu.
A: bukatsu. Oh, your club.
I: Yes.
A: Oh, I see.  What club are you in?
I: Kendo.
A: Kendo.  I see.  All right.  Do you have a question for me?
I: ...
A: What are you..
I: What are you
A: going to do
I: going to do
A: for summer vacation?
I: for summer vacation?
A: Very good.  I'm going to go to Kariya city library.
I: library? *1
A: library.  You say toshokan in Japanese.  OK.

 

     Table 4 below shows instances of communication breakdowns (shown as ) and communication strategies she uses (shown as number).

 

Table 4

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation



1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

nd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

rd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown  □=communication strategy drill

 

5.2 Student 4 - Intermediate Level Student's Change

Now let’s look at Examples 10 to 12 below.  They are the transcripts of the conversations between Student 4 and the ALT. 

In Example 10 we see three breakdowns in communication.  Look at the first communication breakdown (See *1).  Because the ALT does not understand him, Student 4 has trouble explaining what he did for Golden Week.  He receives “repetition request” and “comprehension check” from the ALT, but is unable to manage that.  He merely repeats the same phrase.  “Achievement strategies” could help him to manage better.  He should at least use “non-linguistic means (NM).”  Let’s look at the second communication breakdown (See *2).  Student 4 has another problem.  He cannot understand what the ALT is talking about.  The ALT talks about a small toy character offered as a soft drink promotion.  Student 4 does not have such background knowledge.  It results in a communication breakdown.  At this point, he should use “expressions of non-understanding (EN).”  Lastly, look at the third communication breakdown (See *3).  He cannot say a word after ALT’s question.  He makes this note in his class diary:

 

習っていない単語を使ったら発音がわからず、何度も聞きかえされた。トレビーに質問して答えが返ってきたら、なんていえばいいのかわからず、沈黙してしまった。

I used a word that I had not learned.  I did not know how to pronounce it.  Trevy (ALT) did not understand it and asked me to repeat it many times.  I asked Trevy a question and he answered it.  I did not know what to say and stopped talking. 

(translated by the author)

 

After a long answer, students seem to have difficulty taking turns.  Maybe he does not understand what the ALT says.  Here one should use “expressions of non-understanding (EN).”  We see a lack of communication strategies here. 

In Example 11, he improves.  He has a little trouble at *4.  He uses a Japanese word, “sangoshou,” because he does not know how to say it in English.  The ALT asks him, “What is sangoshou?”  Although Student 4 thinks about explaining it, he cannot find the words and says, “I don’t know.”  He uses “message abandonment (MA).”  If he were to change the topic to maintain the conversation here, it would be a good use of the strategy, but he cannot do it.  He uses “message abandonment (MA)” by using the phrase, “I don’t know” again later (See *5).   In this case, Student 4 tries to answer, but cannot make himself understood well.  In the second half of the conversation he uses “appeal for help (AH)” saying “What is Russia?” (See *6).  Moreover, he utters a “response (RE)” and continues asking questions, which is an instance of “follow-up questions (FQ)” (See *7).   It seems that he learns some communication strategies.

In Example 12, Student 4 does not use any communication strategies.  He is successful maintaining his part through “follow-up questions (FQ)” (See *8).  He improves a lot through this communication unit.

 

Example 10 S4's First Conversation with the ALT

Example 11 S4's Second Conversation with the ALT

Example 12 S4's Third Conversation with the ALT

A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good.  Thank you for asking.  Ah, what did you do for Golden Week?
I: I drew illustration.
A: I'm sorry?
*1
I: Illustration.
A: Illustration?
I: I drew illustration.
A: I'm sorry?
I: I drew illustration.
A: Ah, drew an illustration.  What illustration did you drew?
I: I drew game character.
A: Game character?  What game?
I: Final Fantasy.
A: I see. Final Fantasy 9?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  Now when I buy Coca Cola, I get Final Fantasy character?  So I will give them to you.
I: ...
*2
A: I will give you Coca Cola Final Fantasy characters.
I: ......... OK.
A: OK.  Ah, do you have a question for me?
I: What did you do for Golden Week?
A: For Golden Week I went to
Kariya Sougou Hospital every day.
I: ...
 ★*3
A: to see my wife because she was a pregnant.  Thank you very much. Good work.

A: Good morning.
I: Good morning.
A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Pretty good.  Thank you for asking.  Where do you want to go?
I: I want to go to
Okinawa.
A:
Okinawa.  Why?
I: I want to see a sangoshou.
A: Sangoshou?
I: Yes.
A: What is Sangoshou?
I: ... ... I don't know. (MA)

*4
A: OK.  Do you want to go swimming?
I: Yes.  Yes, I want.
A: And do you like
Okinawa food?
I: ... I don't know. (MA)
*5
A: I don't know?  OK.  I ate
Okinawa food one time.  I don't like it.  It's not delicious, I think.  Ah, do you have a question for me?
I: Where do you want to go?
A: I want to go to
Russia.
I: What is
Russia? *6 (AH)
A: Ro she ah. (Japanese pronunciation)
I: Ah,
Russia.  (RE) *7 Why? (FQ)
A: Because it's a very mysterious country.  There are many interesting places and there is a lot of interesting history and I want to try Russian food.
I: How long were you there?
A: I want to stay for maybe two weeks.  Thank you very much.

A: Good morning.
I: Good morning.
A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Nmm, pretty good but a little hot.  Well, what are you doing for summer vacation?
I: I am going to go to see fireworks.
A: See fireworks?  Where?
I: I am going to go to
Toyota.
A:
Toyota?  Ah, Toyota fireworks festival.
I: Yes.
A: I saw it one time two years ago.  I was in
Toyota and it is fantastic from five thirty p.m. to nine p.m.  They shot fireworks.  It was great.  So do you have a question for me?
I: ... ...Where are you going to in summer vacation?
A: I'm going to go to
Nagoya.
I: What are you going to go to do there?
A: I'm going to go shopping.
I: How long are you going to stay there? (FQ) *8
A: Probably I will stay maybe two or three hours or maybe longer maybe four hours.  And of course I want to buy some CDs and books.  Thank you very much.  Good work.

 

Table 5 below shows communication breakdowns () and communication strategies she uses (by number).  The number of the communication breakdowns decreases and some communication strategies are used in second and third conversations.

 

Table 5

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

2

nd

 

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

0

1

 

1

 

0

 

0

 

1

0

 

3

rd

 

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

=communication breakdown  □=communication strategy drill

 

5.3 Student 5 - Advanced Level Student's Change

Look at Examples 13 to 15 below.  These are the transcripts of the conversations between Student 5 and the ALT.  Student 5 begins conversation by breaking the routine.  This beginning creates a good atmosphere in the conversation. 

Let’s look at Example 13 first.  Student 5 has one communication breakdown.  In the second half of the conversation, Student 5 does not start in a routine again.  Most of the students say “What did you do for Golden Week?”, but he says “What did you do on April twenty-eighth?” (See *1).  Then the ALT tries to answer and thinks of the day of the week, asking “What day of the week was April twenty-eighth?”  Student 5 starts thinking.  However, it creates a pause in the conversation.  Then the ALT asks him the same question.  Because Student 5 can answer “Saturday” after thinking, he knows the meaning of the question.  Student 5 lacks in using the “filler (FI)” here.  If Student 5 says, “Well…” or “Let me see…,” the ALT will not feel compelled to repeat the question. 

Look at Example 14.  Student 5 manages to employ some communication strategies here (See *2).  When Student 5 does not understand the question, he says, “Sorry?” which falls under “repetition requests (RR).”  In the second half of the conversation, he again does well (See *4).  Student 5 does not understand the word “Amsterdam,” so he says, “What is Amsterdam?” which is “appeal for help (AH).”  Student 5 maintains the conversation most of the time, but he has two points to improve (See *5).  After the question “What is Amsterdam?” the ALT answers, “Amsterdam is in Holland.”  Student 5 does not understand the word “Holland,” either.  He should use “appeal for help (AH)” again.  Another trouble is shown at *3.   “Do you like sashimi burger?” is a joke, but Student 5 is annoyed with the joke and does not say anything.  He should give the ALT some “response (RE)” here by using some expressions such as “No kidding.”

Look at Example 15.  He begins to use many communication strategies.  At the beginning of the conversation, he has a communication breakdown.  Because the ALT suddenly mentions girl’s name, Student 5 cannot imagine what the ALT is talking about.  He makes a pause.  However, after that, he can recover from the breakdown by using “repetition requests (RR)” (See *7).  He keeps the conversation better and better.  Then Student 5 takes turns (See *8).  The ALT asks him, “Are you going to take a trip?”  He avoids the topic.  Maybe that is because he has no idea whether he will take a trip in summer vacation or not at that time.  Not only avoiding the topic, he uses the phrase “How about you?” and tries to take turns.  This is “topic avoidance to maintain the conversation (TA-M).”  Student 5 uses some other communication strategies after that.  Look at *9.  The ALT says, “I’m going to go in about two weeks.”  Student 5 tries to ask to repeat and says, “How long?”  This is “repetition request (RR).”  Then while the ALT replies, he utters, “Oh” (See *10).  This is a “response (RE)” to the ALT.

 

Example 13 S5's First Conversation with the ALT

Example 14 S5's Second Conversation with the ALT

Example 15 S5's Third Conversation with the ALT

A: Good morning, Mr. S5.  How are you?
I: I'm sleepy.
A: Sleepy?  Why?
I: Nmm...
A: What time did you go to bed?
I: ... It was ...
ten thirty.
A:
Ten thirty?
I: Yes.
A: Ah, what time did you wake up?
I: ... At seven.
A: At seven.  So you slept ... eight and a half hours.  It's a long time.
I: Yes.
A: Oh, OK.  Anyway what did you do for Golden Week?
I: ... My mother caught a cold.  Then I made dinner.
A: You made dinner.
I: Yes.
A: Wow. What did you make?
I: ...Yakisoba.
A: Yakisoba?  Oh, very good.  All right.
I: What did you do on April twenty-eighth? *1
A: April twenty-eighth?  What day of the week is April twenty-eighth?
I: ...
★ 
A: What day of the week was April twenty-eighth?
I: ... Saturday.
A: I see.  Ah, Saturday.  Probably I woke up at about ten thirty, watch the news, maybe drunk some coffee, then took a shower, went to
Kariya Sogo Hospital to see my wife.  Thank you, Mr. S5.

A: Good morning, Mr. S5.  How are you?
I: I'm hungry.
A: Ah, very good.  Me, too.  What do you want to eat?
I: ... Ah, ... it's hamburger.
A: Hamburger? ... And where in the world can you eat hamburger?
I: ... Sorry?
 *2(RR)
A: Where ... in the world... can you eat hamburger?
I: It's
America.
A: Yes.  Ah, so where do you want to go?
I: ... I went to go
Hokkaido.
A: To
Hokkaido? Why?
I: I like ski.
A: You like skiing?  I see.  Do you like the food in
Hokkaido?
I: ... For example, corn and Chinese noodle.
A: Oh, like ramen?
I: Yes.
A:
Sapporo ramen?
I: Yes.
A: I see.  Very good.  And do you like crabs?
I: Yes, I do.
A: And do you like sashimi?
I: Yes, I do.
A: Do you like sashimi burger?
I: ....
*3
A: It's a joke.  Do you have a question for me?
I: Where do you want to go?
A: I want to go to
Amsterdam.
I: What is
Amsterdam? (AH)  

*4
A:
Amsterdam is ah in Holland.
I: ... 
★ *5 
A: (whispers) Oranda.
I: Why?
A: Because it's a very interesting and fun city and I had good time there.  Thank you very much. Good work.

I: Good morning, Trevy.
A: How are you?
I: I'm fine, thank you.  And you?
A: Very good, but a little hot. Are you hot?
I; Me, too.
A: Yes.  So ah,...What are you doing for your summer vacation.
I: I play table tennis.
A: A table tennis?  I see.  So you're in the same club as Noriko?
I: ...
 ★ *6
A: You're in the same club.
I: Sorry? (RR) *7
A: You're in the same club as Noriko.
I: Yes.
A: Nmm, I see.  And can you play table tennis with Noriko?  Together?
I: No.
A: No? I see.  Are you a good player?
I: Yes.
A: Oh, wow.  OK.  You have much confidence.  That's great.  And so are you going to take a trip?
I: I don't know.  How about you?  (TA-M) *8
A: Yes, in fact, I'm going to go to my home town,
New Orleans.  I'm going to go in about two weeks.
I: ... ... How long? (RR) *9
A: Maybe ah not maybe I'm going to go for two weeks from July twenty-fifth to August tenth.
I: Why? 
A: Well, of course, I want to see my family and my friends, and of course, I want to go shopping.
I: Oh, (RE) *10
A: I must buy new shirts, new pants, and new shoes.  All right, Mr. S5. Good work.

 

Table 6 below shows instances of communication breakdown () and communication strategies she uses (by number).  The number of communication breakdowns does not change a lot as Student 5 tries to make conversation with the ALT fluently or naturally.  However, he manages to avoid total breakdown by using an increasing number of communication strategies.

 

Table 6

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

 

1

st

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

 

 

0

 

 

0

0

 

2

nd

 

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

0

 

0

 

1

1

 

0

 

0

0

 

3

rd

 

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2

0

1

 

0

=communication breakdown  □=communication strategy drill

 

5.4 Conclusion of Case Study 2

     Different tendencies are observable at different student levels.  At first, let’s observe each student’s sentence and conversation tendencies.  See Table 7 below. 

 

Table 7

Level

Tendencies

Elementary

There are a lot of grammatical mistakes and most of the utterances consist of one-word sentences.

The student needs a lot of help from the ALT.

Most of the conversation is led by the ALT.

Intermediate

Many of the sentences are previously prepared ones.

The student tries to say grammatically correct long sentences.

The student seems to pay attention to the sentence structure.

Advanced

Conversation is natural and the student wants to make the conversation unique.

The student uses shorter sentences to make the conversation natural.

The student seems to pay attention to the content of the conversation, not to the sentence structure.

 

All of the students seem to enjoy the conversation with the ALT, but there are different attitude toward the conversation.  The elementary level student tries to use words, not sentences.  So in order to say a sentence, she needs a lot of help from the ALT.  The intermediate level student tries to use grammatically correct sentences.  And the advanced level student sometimes uses phrases to let the conversation go on quickly and more than two sentences when they are necessary, such as “My mother caught a cold.  Then I made dinner.” Or “I don’t know.  How about you?”  The advanced level student changes the sentence level according to the situation. 

 

Let’s look at Table 8 and observe how students acquire the communication strategies. 

Table 8

 

1 Achievement

2 Turn-taking

3 Meaning-negotiation

CL

AM

WC

LT

NM

FI

GA

TA-M

MA-M

FQ

AH

RR

EN

RE

CC

 

 

 

 

 

E

 

L

1st

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

0

0

0

2

nd

0

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

0

3

rd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

I

M

1st

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

0

0

0

2

nd

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

0

★★

1

 

1

 

0

 

0

 

1

0

3

rd

0

 

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

A

D

1st

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

0

2

nd

0

 

0

 

0

0

0

 

0

 

0

0

 

0

 

0

 

1

1

 

0

 

0

0

3

rd

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

2

0

1

 

0

=communication breakdown  □=communication strategy drill

 

The above table suggests that students begin to learn communication strategies as the classes proceeded.  The elementary level student can use “appeal for help (AH)” in the third conversation.  The intermediate and advanced students start using communication strategies in the second and third conversations.  Most of the communication strategies which students use here are the strategies which they learn through communication strategy drill.  It can be concluded that the activities in the “Communication Unit” let the students acquire communication strategies.

        What communication strategies do students acquire?  More than half of them are “meaning-negotiation strategies.”  There are two reasons.  At first, these strategies are easy to use because students can employ fixed expressions like, “What is …?” and “Pardon?”   Secondly, most of the communication breakdown students meet is caused by difficulty of understanding.  Students do not understand what the ALT says and the conversation stops.    “Turn-taking strategies” are mostly used as “follow-up questions.”  Because they are conversations between a native speaker and a novice learner, the ALT leads most of the conversation.  So it is not easy for students to take turns and leads the conversation.  No “achievement strategies” are used.  Students may not have the opportunities to use these strategies as they do not have to explain something or introduce a new idea.  In other conversational situation such as “introducing Japanese culture,” students may meet the communication breakdowns that require “achievement strategies.” 

 

6 Conclusions

Let us verify the hypothesis: Through tape transcription, students can raise their awareness of communication strategies and begin to use them.  It may be rather hasty to verify the hypothesis clearly since I chose only four students out of 222 in this study.  In actuality, none of the students can use communication strategies at the beginning, but, by the end, they begin to use some of them.  As the Case Study 2 shows, the intermediate and advanced level students can use “turn-taking strategies” and “meaning-negotiation strategies.”  Even the elementary level student begins to use “meaning-negotiation strategies.”  As the Case Study 1 shows, tape-transcription in conjunction with self-evaluation helps to raise their awareness of how communication strategies work in conversations.  The transcription process provides rich information about students’ conversations and gives the students chance to improve their conversational ability.

There are three implications this study brings.  Firstly, recording students’ conversations gives us a lot of information.  It is not only used by researchers but also students themselves to improve their conversational skills.  By transcribing the tape, students can notice many things, including communication strategies.  Secondly, this study clearly shows how important to acquire communication strategies.  Learning grammar and vocabulary is important to improve their communicative competence.  However, communicative competence is not merely a matter of linguistic competence.  Strategic competence and other competences are also important.  Lastly, as Table 8 shows, this study encourages further study.  Even elementary level students can acquire “meaning-negotiation strategies,” but no one can use “achievement strategies.”  How do students learn “achievement strategies”?  In order to use them, students need to be placed in a situation which demands these strategies. 

The analysis in this paper is limited to the conversations made by four students.  It is hoped that many similar and extended investigations will be pursued into the language development of learners in general.

 

 

Acknowledgements

     I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Masayoshi Sugiura at Aichi University of Education for his generous advice and assistance in making this paper possible.

 

 

References

Bachman, L.F. 1990. Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing.  New York: Oxford University Press.

Canale, M. and Swain, M. 1980. ‘Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing'. Applied Linguistics, 1, 1-47.

Canale, M. 1983. ‘From communicative competence to communicative language pedagogy’. in J. C. Richards and R. W. Schmidt (eds.). 1983. Language and communication. New York: Longman.

Celce-Murcia, M., Dornyei, Z, and Thurrell, S. 1995. ‘Communicative Competence: A Pedagogically Motivated Model with Content Specifications.' Applied Linguistics, Vol.6 No.2: 5-35.

Nolasco, R. & Arthur, L. 1987. Conversation.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tarone, E. 1977. ‘Conscious Communication Strategies in Interlanguage: a Progress Report' in H. D. Brown, A. Yorio, and R. C. Crymes (eds.).  in TESOL '77, Teaching and Learning ESL. Washington D.C.:TESOL, 194-203.

Tarone, E. 1983. “Some thoughts on the notion of ‘communication strategy'.” in C. Faerch, and G. Kasper (eds.). Strategies in Interlanguage Communication. New York: Longman.