How to Teach/Learn Everyday and Challenging Kinds of Speech

Not so long ago, there were clear rules and directives for the teaching/learning of Oral Communication. These were designed for use in both casual conversation and academic Speech courses.  In those days, such procedures and advice seemed to work for both language learners and “just plain folk” that wanted to improve the effectiveness of their English.
But with all the changes in technology, communications, and politicking in the world, do these common-sense directives still have value? Here are images that suggest eight kinds of speech still in existence today. They don’t necessarily make a point about how to best listen and talk, so what do they suggest?
For a summary of the pedagogy for four kinds of speech that used to be considered non-controversial, look back at the article How to Achieve Communicative "Perfection."
From Speaking: Oral Language Skills for Real-Life Communication, in bulleted Pieces of Advice, here’s a summary of “Conventional Wisdom” for four kinds of expression usually perceived as agreeable, communicative, and healthy. If you click on the titles of the parts where the four kinds of speech are covered, you’ll get not only a sample of that kind of oral interaction, but also instructions for a “Mini-Speech” of your own.
Part One: Short Talk, Not Small Talk:
  • Ask Engaging Open-Ended Questions
  • Add Interesting Info to Your Short Answers
  • Listen to & Comment on Your Partner’s Ideas
  • Be Generous & Honest in Sharing Your Knowledge & Thoughts
  • Don’t Interrupt Unless It Furthers Communication
  • Help Others Feel Comfortable Making Short Talk
Part Three: Talking About Anything:
  • Relax & Imagine
  • Grab Onto Interesting Thoughts Before They Disappear
  • Be Aware of What’s Going On. Learn About New Things
  • Don’t Hurt or Insult Others. Otherwise, Allow Yourself to Say Whatever Comes to Mind.
Part Five: Informational or Instructional Speech—Explanation & Process:
  • Include Statistics, Reasons, Examples & Other Details That Make the Point Clear
  • Include “Anecdotes That Teach”
  • Demonstrate When Helpful
  • Organize Your Presentation for Clarity
  • Follow Your Plan
  • Check for Comprehension or Mastery at Intervals & at the End.
Part Six: Narration (Story-Telling)—True Stories & Fiction:
  • Use Narration to Report, to Make Conversation, and/or to Entertain
  • Tell Events in a Clear Order & Style
  • Use Your Voice Skillfully to Make Meaning Clear
  • Use Facial Expressions & Gestures to “Punctuate” Dialog
  • Perfect Your “Timing” 

Speaking: Oral Skills, sample small talk conversation in American English   Speaking: Oral Skills, The “Wisdom” of Proverbs" in American EnglishSpeaking: Oral Skills, How to Give a Really Good Speech in American English      Speaking: Oral Skills, Sample Speech “The Long March” for American English

But what about other (more complex or more challenging?) kinds of speech—those that could be perceived as difficult or controversial? Again, from Speaking: Oral Language Skills for Real-Life Communication, here’s a summary of the pedagogy—a recap of the main pieces of advicefor four other kinds of oral communication.
And again, if you click on the underlined title of each relevant section—or on the visuals below (the four first pages of the excerpts), you’ll get the original article in a “Mini-Lecture” text format. It may be followed by a Sample Conversation or Speech; Oral Practice (an activity designed to rehearse lesson principles); and/or instructions for making a Mini-Speech of the same kind of your own. 
Here are some rules and practices that used to be accepted and effective in these more "dangerous” kinds of speech:
Part Two: Problem-Solving Talk—the Language of Situational Advice: 
  • Describe Circumstances Clearly, Honestly, & Briefly
  • Tell Why the Situation Is a Problem
  • Explain Why Attempted Steps Haven’t Produced a Solution
  • Ask for Specific Advice or Help
  • Use Active Listening Skills
  • Converse for a Constructive, Positive Purpose.
Part Four: The Language of Conflict Resolution—Disagreements, Disputes, Legal Talk:
  • Never Try to “Win” a Dispute by Overpowering “Opponents”
  • Listen First—Honestly—to Others’ Feelings & Opinions
  • Pause Before Answering Someone Else’s Argument
  • State Your Own Case Directly, Accurately, Moderately, Briefly
  • Help Others to “Save Face” in Ending the Dispute
So that it doesn’t become confrontational, here are more specific techniques for use in verbal interchange:
  • First, Mirror what Your Partner Says
  • Keep Asking for More Info about the Situation or Dispute
  • When Your Partner Has Finished Presenting His/Her “Case,” Validate His/Her Feelings or Thoughts
  • Ask for What You Can Do to Help Solve the Problem
  • Ask for What You Want (If Anything) in the Situation
Part Seven: The Language of Selling--Persuasive Speech:
  • Avoid  “Hard Sells”
  • Change Your Goal of “Getting a Sale at Any Cost” to Finding a Mutually-Agreeable Basis for Business or Cooperation
  • Create an Atmosphere of Mutual Interest, Respect, & Trust
  • Ask Real Questions & Sincerely Consider their Answers
  • Stress Benefits Over Features
  • Handle Objections Through Acknowledgement & Solutions
  • If Appropriate, “Close the Sale”
Part Eight: The Language of Debate—Supporting Opinions with Informational Reasoning:
  • Make Sure You’re Discussing the Same Question or Issue
  • Using “Deductive” Rather Than “Inductive” Reasoning: Begin with Your Conclusions. Then Explain Your Rationale.
  • Concentrate on One Point at a Time. Don’t Confuse with Irrelevant Info or Reactions
  • Organize Your Points So That Listeners Can Follow Your Logic
  • Summarize Each Point Right Away or at the End of Your Presentation

Speaking: Oral Skills, Problem-Solving Talk—the Language of Situational Advice in American English   Speaking: Oral Skills, The Language of Conflict Resolution—Disagreements, Disputes, Legal Talk in American English  Speaking: Oral Skills, The Language of Selling—Persuasive Speech in American English  Speaking: Oral Skills, The Language of Debate—Supporting Opinions with Informational Reasoning

So those are the conventional rules and procedures for learning to understand what others mean to say and to express yourself in eight kinds of speech. Do they still hold today?
Does the attempt to “Teach/Learn/Improve Language Based on ‘Truth in Abnormal Times’ in an Always Evolving ‘Age of Alternative Facts” change our conversation about ourselves, our environment, other people, and the situation of our world?
How are these 8 kinds of speech adjusting? Which styles of attempted communication are going out of style? Which are being added to our repertoires? 
Here are some first attempts to articulate the kinds of rules, procedures, and practices that could be added to what works in oral exchanges:  
Part Unnumbered: The Language of Our Changing World:
  • Agree to Agree on Definitions of Basic but Controversial Words like “True,” “Facts,” “Proven,” “Real,” “Positive,” “Useful,” “Understand,” etc.)
  • Make It “Illegal” or at Least “Immoral” to Try to Win by Defeating Others   ·  Take the Most Direct Route for “Getting to Yes” by Applying Any & All Rules That Have Worked Before
  • Discover, Try Out, & Expand New, Even More Effective Practices & Technique

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    About Work/Life English
    For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of native and non-native English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons, strategies, and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit www.worklifeenglish.com.

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