Sophomore English class 8: planning your themed conversation; “English” English

Nimen Hao,

today you’re going to work on your plans for your themed conversation (to be practiced in week 15 in class, and conducted with me for assessment on week 16.

Aims and criteria for success

  • Understand the purpose of the conversation is to tell the listener about something (so a little different from an everyday conversation). Choose a topic,  theme(s) and or thesis.
  • Plan to converse in a manner that is informative, interesting, and logically coherent. Remember, the theme for this semester is expressing your critical judgements.
  • Have clear expectations of your listener: it is her/his jobs to prompt you to continue, s/he may ask questions to help you along, but his main task is to listen to what you are telling him.

Note: the task is to conduct a conversational-style talk on a theme of your choosing. This is different from an everday conversation in some ways: it allows you to plan and practice your talk. You can thereby work on aspects of your themed conversation beforehand, including getting your sentences working correctly, and finding the right (appropriate) vocabulary. 

  • Organise your ideas for speaking. Have a structure in mind
  • Speak clearly and grammatically correctly.
  • Be time effective. Plan your conversation material so that it lasts for approx. four minutes (the time is not as strictly judged as the debate presentation, but make sure that you have enough to say; you won’t be penalised in assessment for going slightly over four minutes.
  • If you want to use powerpoint or images to help your discussion make sure they help and don’t distract from your conversation.

Today: i) plan your themes conversation and tell me about it ii) listenening and comprehension: colloquial English (“English” English).

Work on your plans, and discuss in your small groups.

You might like to start with an idea map, and then begin to give your ideas structure by ordering them, finding support for each main idea, and excluding any material that doesn’t seem sufficiently useful, interesting or relevant.

Many of the criteria for a successful themed conversation are similar to those for debating (although a debate is a more formal spoken word exercise). John Langan  four basis for planning written your ideas and their presentation are also relevant for this spoken-word assignment. They are unity, coherence, support, sentence skills. (Langan, J. College Writing Skills, 9th ed. 2006).


It might help to organise your material into an introduction, discussion body (three or more main ideas) and conclusion.

Use the Sentence-skills guide as a checklist when you practice.

Revise and edit so that you sentences are effective and error-free.  Ask your friends to do practice with you and listen for any errors in the following areas:

  • Correct verb forms?
  • Subject and verb agreement?
  • Avoidance of fragments (speaking in full sentences)?
  • Correct use of pronouns including gender (he/she)?
  • Needless words eliminated?
  • Effective word choices?
  • Varied sentences?

Verbal presentation: clarity, speed, volume

Clarity: Speak clearly and enunciate correctly.

  • Pronounce your words correctly.
  • Make sure you don’t garble your words (they should be clearly distinct and not run into each other).
  • Express your ideas as simply and clearly as possible (avoid unnecessarily complex language).

Speed: Speak at a conversational pace, but not too quickly.

  • Make sure you don’t speak too quickly. A good way to ensure this is to concentrate on starting slowly (reinforcing the feeling of speaking at a measured pace to your audience).

Volume: Your volume should be appropriate for the context of your presentation.

  • As we will be presenting in a small classroom, just to the teacher, you might use a normal conversational tone.
  • However, don’t speak too softly; we need to be able to hear (and record) you clearly.


Like the spoken word debate its a good idea to practice with friends. See if they can hear any mistakes or make any other suggestions. You might want to record the conversation and listen back to yourself. We will have a practice class in week 15 when I will listen to you and give you feedback. Practice is very good for keeping on time.

Everyday (colloquial) “English” English (not British English)

Colloqial English: spoken English is always changing. Old words and phrases are reinvented for other purposes, sometimes as metaphor or synecdoche (for example, the word “suit” has become a synechdoche for a businesswo/man.

Let’s listen to two pairs of English actors explain some colloqial English English.First are the actors Emma Stone (American) and Rachel Weisz

Did you understand the English slang and the actors’ explanations? Let’s check.

Again, did you understand the English slang and the explanations? Let’s check.

Last video, let’s listen to Tom Hardy and Riz Ahmed.


Let’s check the terms that we are not sure of again.

Chinese colloquialisms (slang): Do they translate?

Can you think of some Chinese slang words, phrases or sayings?

Can they be translated into English? Would they make sense to an Anglophone listener?







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