The Internet TESL Journal

Blurring the Boundary Between Spoken and Written Language in EFL

Maria Bortoluzzi
m.bortoluzzi [at]
Liceo Leopardi-Majorana (Pordenone, Italy) & Udine University (Udine, Italy)


The present lesson plan for a teacher training session will focus on the teacher's awareness about language and its context of production. The approach is theory-driven, but based on activities which can be adapted and successfully used for awareness-raising activities in language classes at different levels.

The present lesson plan is based on two main basic assumptions. First of all there is the need for the language teacher to reflect on his/her own practice. The second assumption deriving from the first is that the group of teachers addressed is not an audience, but the fundamental resource to draw upon. The teachers will be asked to think of their classroom experience and reflect critically upon it, analyse whether what is being discussed has relevance for their teaching practice, whether it can be used in class and how or whether what is being said should be simply part of the teacher's awareness of behaviours, tools, language (Hedge, 2000; Harmer, 1998; Nunan & Lamb, 1995; Woodward, 1991; Kramsch, 1993; Bygate et al., 1994; McCarthy and Carter, 1994; Carter, 1990; Cook, 1989).

In summary, the present lesson plan is based on the key concepts of reflection on one's professional practice and awareness of the people, the context and the 'tools' contributing to that practice.

In a more specific way, the sessions I outline in this plan are based on the need for the language teacher to be aware of the fundamental resources s/he is dealing with: the language and, as a consequence, its context of production, the types of participants in the communicative event and the cultural conventions.

General Approach and Procedure

Given that the focus of the session is language awareness, the approach used in planning it is theory-driven. The aims for this choice are to show the link between theory and practice in our profession and to discuss the problem of how reflection on some theoretical issues can bring about self-assessment, change and development in the teacher's practice.

However theory-driven, the approach will have to take into account the needs of language teachers and the applicability of language reflection in the classroom context and in teaching practice. Therefore the procedure will be based on theory applied to actual language and reflective tasks which, with some adjustments, may be also used in the language class.


Teacher Training Context

Time: 3-hour session.

Target Population:

Teachers of English as a foreign language. The levels of teaching experience may be varied since the focus of the session is language awareness rather than teaching techniques.

Setting and Materials:

Ideally a well-lit, large room with comfortable tables and chairs which can be easily moved around and re-arranged according to the needs of the participants.

There should be a large enough board, O.H.P., tape recorder, video, stationery materials for writing posters and transparencies. In the first session a computer will be needed in order to show a section of a hypertext.


  1. The general aim of the session is to focus the LTs' critical observation and reflection on what is both the most important resource and the most important goal of our profession: language use in meaningful communication and its contexts of production.

    Language is not simply a set of abstract or practical rules, a system of sounds, syntactic and semantic structures: it is first and foremost a series of communicative events deeply rooted in specific contexts informed by cultural schemata. The participants in the interaction (oral or written) can enact, reinforce, challenge or subvert conventionalised language use. No linguistic act is 'neutral' or unaffected by contextual variables. Language is value-laden and deeply engrained into the beliefs and cultural background of the participants in the communicative event. The foreign LTs confront this issue more than other teachers because they have to deal with two or more cultures and sets of linguistic conventions.

  2. The critical reflection of the LTs on the language used in class, found in text-books, materials, newspapers and other media is related to the issue of how to foster critical thinking in the Ls. It seems to me that this can become an act of 'appropriation' (or re-appropriation) of the language and can be transferred, as a set of critical skills, to the first language as well.

    General reference: van Djik, 1997a, 1997b; Phillipson, 1992; Fairclough, 1989, 1992a, 1992b; Kramsch, 1993; Halliday, 1989.

  3. For the trainees who are not native speakers, another indirect aim will be the practice in the foreign language.

Beginning of the Session and Presentation of Work

(10 minutes)

Stage 1

(65 minutes)



1. (10 minutes)

2. (15 minutes)

Worksheet 1

  1. In the old days teachers used to just whack out reading texts like hot dinners. No instruction. No arousing interest. Just eyes down. Nice and quiet for the teacher, of course.

  2. Art 130R provides that the following are Community objectives: preservation, protection and improvement of the quality of the environment; contribution to protecting human health; ensuring the prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. How far this latter head relates to energy resources remain uncertain.

  3. 'T'maister nobbut just buried, and Sabbath not o'ered, und t'sound o't'gospel still i'yer lugs, and ye darr be laiking! Shame on ye! Sit ye down, ill childer! there's good books eneugh if ye'll read'em: sit ye down, and think o'yer sowls.'

  4. If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.

    Others can pick and choose if you can't.

  5. The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situations, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

  6. Dear Maria,

    I am glad I got your letter. I am in Manchester for two more weeks till August 5th at the Uni, doing some reading, working on my gesture program and of course, enjoying the luscious green spacious parks...

  7. Would you like a biscuit?

    I beg your pardon.

    Would you like a biscuit?

    Oh, yes please. Thank you very much.

  8. D'you want a biscuit?



    Er yeah

    All right


  9. James is officially off his head.

    James is officially office head.

(end of worksheet 1)

(5 minutes for the preparation of the task, 10 minutes for group work).

3. (15 minutes)

(5 minutes for the explanation of the activity, 10 minutes for the task).

4. (20 minutes)

Plenary: discussion on the texts, their source, if they are SL or WL, if the distinction is really possible for all texts. What are the trickiest texts to label (texts taken from literature, for instance, or publicity)? What are the criteria they used to come to their conclusions? In what ways do contextual variables influence differently WL and SL?


At the end of the activity the TT hands-out the photocopy with the list of sources from which the texts come from: Worksheet 2.

Worksheet 2

  1. Tessa Woodward. 1991. Models and Metaphors in Language Teacher Training. Cambridge: C.U.P.; p. 26.

  2. David Hughes. 1992. Environmental Law. London: Butterworth, p.90.

  3. Joseph, the servant in Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte.

  4. T.S. Eliot. The Waste Land. (A Game of Chess)

  5. T.S. Eliot. Hamlet.

  6. personal e-mail, 21/7/98

  7. Contrived conversation. Carter R. and McCarthy M. 1997. Exploring Spoken English. Cambridge: C.U.P, p.64.

  8. Transcript from real conversation. Ibid.: 65.

  9. Billboard advertisement for hi-fi system. Seen in Manchester and Birmingham railway stations, July 1998.

(end of worksheet 2)

6. (5 minutes)

The TT asks the LTs to look again at the distinction between SL and WL they had written at the beginning of the session and see whether they want to add something to it or change something. Again they are asked to keep the sheet of paper for a follow-up activity.

Anticipated Outcomes to Stage 1

Stage 2

(65 minutes + 10 minutes break)



1. (10 minutes for the explanations + 10 minutes break + 20 minutes group and pair work)

Worksheet 3

The dialogue is taken from Carter R. and McCarthy M. 1997. Exploring Spoken English. Cambridge: C.U.P, pages 64-65.

S: Speaker; the action takes place Speaker 1,2,4's kitchen. Speaker 3 is a visitor.


  1. <S 01> Now I think you'd better start the rice
  2. <S 02> Yeah -- what you got there?
  3. [4 secs]
  4. <S 02> Will it all fit in the one?
  5. <S 01> No you'll have to do two separate ones
  6. <S 03> right -- what next?
  7. [17 secs]
  8. <S 03> Foreign body in there
  9. <S 02> It's the raisins
  10. <S 03> Oh is it oh it's rice with raisins is it?
  11. <S 02> | No no no it's not supposed to be
  12. [laughs] erm
  13. <S 03> There must be a raisin for it being in there
  14. <S 02> D'you want a biscuit?
  15. <S 03> Erm
  16. <S 02> Biscuit?
  17. <S 03> r yeah
  18. [9 secs]
  19. <S 04> All right
  20. <S 03> Yeah
  21. [10 secs]
  22. <S 04> Didn't know you used boiling water
  23. <S 02> Pardon
  24. <S 04> Didn't know you used boiling water
  25. <S 02> Don't have to but erm -- they reckon it's erm quicker
  26. 26 [5 secs]

(end of worksheet 3)

  1. First they have to decide on the level of formality of the language and in which sections of text the context and the familiarity between the characters make the language rather difficult to process for readers.

  2. Then they should split into pairs: one pair analyses the language and decides what the characteristics of spoken language in this interaction are and how it differs from the language of coursebooks and pedagogical grammars; the other pair tries to transform the transcript into a text that might typically be found in a coursebook and can be read aloud by four people.

  3. At the end, the group of 4 writes on a large poster the characteristics of spoken language they have found and prepare to read the 'coursebook' dialogue aloud, acting it out together.

2. (20 minutes)

3. (15 minutes)

Plenary discussion:

Anticipated Outcomes to Stage 2

Stage 3

(20 minutes)



1. (20 minutes)

Worksheet 4

  1. TOYS-R-US

    (name of toy factory and chain of toy shops)


    (ad about a theme park of dinosaurs in Norfolk; information brochure)

  3. TAKEAWAY (paper napkin)


    (ad of Body Shop in The Big Issue, 13th July, 1998)

  5. My Best Friends Wedding

    (leaflet advertising the film at the local cinema , July, 1989)

  6. The Editor of The Guardian

  7. Novel-hypertext: 253 by Geoff Ryman.

(end of worksheet 4)

Anticipated Outcomes to Stage 3


The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VII, No. 5, May 2001