Thursday, 8 March 2012

Authentic Indirectness

I've spent the past couple of nights working on indirect questions with my intermediate learners. The class claimed that this was a totally new area for them: however with a little prompting they admitted to occasionally beginning queries with an introductory “Could you tell me” or “Would you mind telling me…?” What’s trickier is mastering the form: the fact that does and do disappear, word order changes and if and whether are required for yes/no questions…

Anyway, I breezed into class tonight convinced that I had a splendid lesson on indirect questions tucked up my sleeve. I had a great starting point in Elefthourio Ernst’s wonderful Fairy Tale Bad Guys:, and thought that I could easily adapt it to fit my purpose. 

My idea was to use the interview role play as an opportunity for learners to ask indirect questions where they might normally use direct questions. Not every question needed to be indirect: I asked for a 50:50 ratio.
The learners enjoyed the comedy of the role plays, and seemed to get to grips with the form of the new question type fairly painlessly. But listening to them, I started to ask myself:  how do native speakers of English use this question form?  In an interview situation, what percentage of questions might be indirect? I plan to find some authentic examples for next week to listen to and analyse with the class. 

On a jolly holiday note, plans for our school trip to Unst are underway! I’ve booked the Gardiesfauld hostel for the 21st of April. Now we just need to fill it to its capacity and arrange a fun filled cultural itinerary!

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