Caveat: This article is just me thinking out loud. It may not read well. But I'm wondering about how we subtly interrupt to indicate we want to say something - can you practice it? Or more appropriately, can you create a structure that allows your students to practice it?

The Scenario

You're standing around with a couple other people having a conversation. You have something to say. How do you step into the conversation?

The Skills

I think the most important skill here is listening. You need to be listening in real time because going back to a topic that has lapsed can be ok but it can also break the flow. You have to interrupt and share your part on the current conversation topic.

Speaking is also important. But you don't need to mentally compose a full sentence before you start speaking. Assuming a basic language level you can think while you talk. The trick is finding the right moment to make that interrupting noise that says to others "Hey, I'm about to say something here.", and that means listening.

The Tools

The way we interrupt is by using little verbal cues. Things like "Yeah" or "Hmm" We often start with a very small word or sound that indicates to others we are about to say more and it can even give an indication as to whether we're going to agree or disagree.

Why We Interrupt

Interruptions are all about turn-taking in conversations. They aren't the only way we indicate a change in turns, but interruptions are a tool the speaker is responsible for. For language learners it might seem difficult but it's important to have a chance to speak. Speaking not only lets you practice and test the language you've learned, it also can be a way to confirm you're listening is going well too. When speaking, we can clarify things others have been speaking about or share things that show understanding.

Creating a Turn-Taking Activity

I haven't thought of one yet, but this is something I'll be looking to integrate into the next speaking clinic I do with junior high students.

Do you have any ideas? If you do, please shout out with a comment below.

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