This online or in-person course aims to develop a student’s ability to understand and use speech in a variety of academic contexts. The course focuses on the speaking and listening skills that students may need in seminars, tutorials, when participating in group work, discussing their work with a supervisor or when presenting academic material.
Students will participate in discussions, mini-presentations, role-plays or problem-solving tasks designed to improve their use of English throughout their academic life at Oxford. Some general English work will examine some the more tricky areas of spoken grammar. These guided activities will reflect common academic speech patterns, such as those found in debating or discussing, and the teacher will regularly feedback to students on their spoken performance.
Students will be briefly reminded how to use the English section of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to ensure they are pronouncing the key vocabulary of their discipline and commonly used words correctly (learn-at-home resources will be provided for students new to the IPA). Moreover, the course will explain how native and near-native speakers use intonation to highlight certain speech functions. For example, students will learn how to use their voice to distinguish making sure and finding out questions. They will then practice these features in various games and activities.
Moreover, the course will cover much academic conversational vocabulary, which refers to phrases that academics might use in lectures or conversations to describe academic activity or thought, but which are unlikely to be found in formal written material (e.g., “to unpack” or “a back-of-the-envelope calculation”).
Students of the online and in-person courses will use Canvas (the university’s Virtual Learning Platform) and so are advised to bring a laptop or tablet to class (although students are welcome to attend without one). The Canvas pages include study-at-home materials, and students may be offered optional homework. The teacher will also explain how to continue improving spoken English outside of class with study skills advice. The students will prepare a group presentation in the penultimate class and present it in the final class; no work is necessary for this outside of class.