Speech transcripts

This lesson invites students to explore a real transcript of natural conversational speech, like those used by linguists who analyse all aspects of language.

Goals

  • Explore a transcript of natural speech. 
  • Identify attributes of natural speech. 
  • Compare natural speech to written language. 

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will explore features of real spoken language.

Distribute the handout (attached below) first and explain that it is a transcript of natural conversational speech – a real conversation between real people. The transcript comes from the ICE-GB corpus. Ask students to work in pairs or groups to describe the language in the sample. What is going on in the transcript? What is surprising about it? What is interesting about it?

At first, students may have to work just to determine the topic being discussed. The topic and content are a good first step towards exploring the transcript.

After that, students may be interested in the words used. There are lots of fillers like uhm, and repeated words like no no.

The grammar is interesting too. There are many places where a speaker begins to say one thing, and then stops, and ends up saying something else. There are many incomplete sentences. In addition, sometimes speakers complete each other's sentences, or agree with each other by repeating just a bit of each other's sentences. All of these are interesting features worth noting.

In closing, ask the students how speech differs from writing. We're accustomed to reading written language all the time, but we almost never read transcripts of spoken language. What have we discovered?

Further Work

Arrange to let the students record one of their own conversations in class, and then have them listen to the recording and transcribe it. What surprises do they find? How does your knowledge of the fact that you are being recorded affect your language? Do you speak the way you write? Do you speak as clearly and fluently as you thought you did? How would you transcribe your recording? Is it more difficult to transcribe than you had anticipated?

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