English Communication Skills
Q.1. What are the barriers to communication? How can they be removed?
Ans. Barriers to Communication: There are various barriers that hinder communi-cation process. Some of them are given below:
(a) Code: The language may be the obstruction. The addressee/receiver may not know the language in which the addresser/sender has sent the message.
(b) Vocabulary: The receiver may not know the term/technical language sent by the sender. For example, a person who is not familiar with the vocabulary of the stock market may not understand the equity or share.
(c) Concept: If the sender uses a subject specific concept, the receiver may not be understood that. For example, a black hole is simple language, yet many do not understand it.
(d) Background Knowledge and Shared Assumptions: An Indian in India may not what is a Victorian style mansion if he has not seen or lived in England.
(e) Pronunciation, Intonation, Accent and Stress in Spoken Language: Sometimes the receiver may not understand the pronun-ciation, intonation, accent and stress of the speaker. For example, an Indian may find it difficult to understand what an American is speaking.
(f) Culture Specific Communication: If the sender of the message sends a message that is specific to his culture and if the receiver is ignorant about that the communication between the two may causes misunder-standing.
(g) Physical Environment: Noise and other disturbances or physical distance between the sender and the receiver of the message can obstruct communication.
(h) Affective Factors: These are factors like attitude, motivation, anxiety, fear, beliefs, values, lack of mutual trust, lack of time or pressure of work, lack of attention and personal rivalries can adversely affect communication.
Barriers of communication can be removed by the following ways:
(a) Code: The sender/addresser has to ensure before sending the message that the receiver/addressee knows the language in which he would send the message.
(b) Vocabulary: The sender must use words which are understood by the receiver. If the receiver is a class seven student, the sender of the message should not use very difficult words because that would obstruct the communication.
(c) Concept: If the sender is an IT engineer and the receiver is a commerce graduate, the sender should not use technical words/concepts which may be difficult to understand by the receiver.
(d) Background knowledge and shared assumptions: The receiver should not assume and instead he should check it by using information available on the net to understand what the sender of the message is intending to say.
(e) Pronunciation, intonation, accent and stress in spoken language: If a receiver is going to talk with an American, he has to first learn how Americans pronounce so that he can understand the American’s spoken language.
(f) Culture specific communication: The receiver has to check on the internet or from others who are acquainted with the culture.
(g) Physical environment: If a teacher is holding a class, he has to ensure that there is no noise in the surrounding to make his communication effective.
(h) Affective factors: The sender and receiver have to go beyond the these factors like attitude, motivation, anxiety, fear, beliefs, values, lack of mutual trust, lack of time or pressure of work, lack of attention and personal rivalries, so that they can communicate effectively.
Q.2. What are the advantages of non-verbal communication?
Ans. Advantages of Non-verbal Communication: Visual communication is effective when quick communication has to be made to a large group, or a person needs to understand a short, simple message in a fleeting moment.
Signs: When we see signs like red light we stop the vehicle without conscious thought. Similarly, when we see the sign of a skull with two crossbones, we take it as a warning. The waving of a green or red flag by a railway guard or a station master passes on a clear message to the driver and to the people on the platform. A flare from a boat indicates that it needs to rescued.
Symbols: Some symbols are easy to understand. They convey the same message in almost all cultures. For example, a heart signifies love. A dove with a twig in its beak, or a white flag, means peace or surrender. Some logos are also popular. In India, the insignia of three lions and the Ashok Chakra means the government. Private companies invest to promote their logos. Children recognize logos before they begin to read.
Graphs, Charts and Flow Charts: Graphs, charts and flow charts are effective means of communication. A graph can better represent the details of the mode of transport preferred by office goers. Similarly, a pie-diagram can effectively shows the spilt up of expenditure of a country. A flowchart can show the organizational set up of a university.
BODY LANGUAGE AND SILENCE: Referred to as the “Visible Code”, facial expression plays an important role in effective communication. We talk with
our vocal cords, but facial expressions, our tone of voice and our whole body communicate what we intend to say. For example, if you are angry at somebody, your facial expression will show that whether you say or not. In the case people do not understand what you say they may study your body language. The scientific study of body language is called kinesics.
Eye Contact: Eye contact has a role in effective communication. Eyes are considered as the windows of the soul. Eyes reflect our nature. A speaker should always look at the listeners. Looking down or looking up, or gazing out of the windows while speaking gives the listeners an impression that the speaker is not interested in what he is saying. When speaking to a group, the speaker should look at all the listeners and avoid focusing on any part of the group, or on an individual. If some person or persons seem to keenly following their talk, the speaker has to bring everybody into the talk and make them focus on him. In schools or colleges, some teachers always look at particular boys or girls. Looking at someone to establish eye contact is different from staring at them (which is offensive) or looking into their eyes (which are reserved for lovers). At an interview, for example, if the interviewee looks right back at the interviewer throughout the time a question is asked and answered, the interviewee may be thought to be aggressive, cheeky or disrespectful. The acceptable direction of the gaze is towards the interlocutor’s face, without fixating on any particular feature; and the gaze is occasionally broken by looking away.
Posture: Proper posture is also important for good communication. Leaning backwards, swinging the legs, resting the head backwards in reclining chair or swiveling too frequently or playfully–are all bad manners. Bend forward a little, keeping the elbows at the side of the trunk of your body, to indicate that you are listening attentively.
Distance: The physical distance between people indicates the relationship between them. The idiom ‘to keep someone at arm’s length’ means that the more the distance, the weaker the relationship. The study of the human use of space within the context of culture is called proxemics. American anthropologist Edward T. Hall defined three kinds of personal spaces surrounding individuals:
(i) Intimate Space: This is the closest “bubble” of space and this space is acceptable only for the closest friends and intimates.
(ii) Social and Consultative Spaces: This is space in which people feel comfortable performing routine social interactions with acquaintances and strangers.
(iii) Public Space: This is the space beyond which people will perceive interactions as impersonal and relatively anonymous.
Physical distance plays a role in communication. Factors like gender sensitivity, cultural practices and individual preferences govern our ideas about how much personal space around us we are comfortable with.
In an office setting, a pat from a superior may give an employee a feeling of confidence and satisfaction
that his work is being appreciated. A warm hug or hearty handshake may let the worker know that the boss is open and wants a good relationship. Too much closeness between a superior and his staff may also be seen as intimidating. Some people use the wrong body language when they are emotional or wish to express something forcefully. A lecturer speaking on an elevated platform can rarely strike a rapport with his students. A teacher who goes closer to the students, walking in between the aisles, may strike the right chord of intimacy. A raised hand and a pointing finger are taken as a threat.
Silence: It’s Role in Communication: Silence is a powerful medium of communication. Sometimes it has a dramatic impact and has a detrimental effect. Silence can be interpreted in different ways. Silence can be effectively used to express one’s protest. It can also provoke introspection in speakers and listeners. Silence can have a dramatic effect in presentations or speeches to draw the attention of everyone. However, if it is not used appropriately, it can be misinterpreted as lack of preparation by the speaker. Depending upon the situation, silence can be appropriate or in appropriate. It can also be used a tool in negotiations. The Japanese are also said to use silence very effectively.
Q. 3. How would you structure a presentation so as to make it most effective?
Ans. It is imperative to plan your beginning carefully; there are five main elements:
(a) Too often in a speech, the first few minutes of the presentation are lost while people adjust their coats, drift in with coffee and finish the conversation they were having with the person next to them. You only have a limited time and every minute is precious to you so, from the beginning, make sure they pay attention.
(b) Basically, you need to start the audience thinking about the subject-matter of your presentation. This can be done by a statement of your main
objective, unless for some reason you wish to keep it hidden. They will each have some experience or opinions on this and at the beginning you must make them bring that experience into their own minds.
(c) If you explain briefly at the beginning of a talk how it is to proceed, then the audience will know what to expect. This can help to establish the theme and also provide something concrete to hold their attention. Ultimately, it provides a sense of security in the promise that this speech too will end.
(d) If you can win the audience over in the first minute, you will keep them for the remainder. You should plan exactly how you wish to appear to them and use the beginning to establish that relationship. You may be presenting yourself as their friend, as an expert, perhaps even as a judge, but whatever role you choose you must establish it at the very beginning.
(e) When planning your speech you should make a note to find out if there are any administrative details which need to be announced at the beginning of your speech. This is not simply to make yourself popular with the people organising the session but also because if these details are over looked the audience may become distracted as they wonder what is going to happen next.
The final impression you make on the audience is the one they will remember. Thus, it is worth planning your last few sentences with extreme care.
As with the beginning, it is necessary first to get their attention, which will have wandered. This requires a change of pace, a new visual aid or perhaps the introduction of one final culminating idea. In some formats, the ending will be a summary of the main points of the talk. One of the greatest mistakes is to tell the audience that this is going to be a summary because at that moment they simply switch off. Indeed it is best that the ending comes unexpectedly with that final vital phrase left hanging in the air and ringing round their memories. Alternatively, the ending can be a flourish, with the pace and voice leading the audience through the final crescendo to the inevitable conclusion.
Q. 4. What are homophones and homographs? Give examples of both.
Ans. Homophones: Homophones are words that are pronounced similarly but have different meanings. Examples: sea, see; cite, site, sight; eye, I; wait, weight; check, cheque; weak, week; loose, lose. A good listener can understand the meaning from the context but an inattentive listener may do not understand it. Hence, one should be careful in using such words.
The pronunciations of these words are the same but
the spellings and the meanings of the words are different. Such pair of words – with identical sounds but different spelling and different meaning – are called homophones. homo = same phone = sound.
Same Form Different Sound and Meaning (Homographs)
See the following sentences:
(a) The secretary checked the minutes.
(b) A diligent organizer takes care of even minute details.
(c) They fought with bows and arrows.
(d) They bow their heads to the martyrs.
In the above examples, we notice that the spellings in both the sets of sentences are the same.
They are also pronounced in the same way.
Such pair of words are called homographs. homo = same graph = writing.
Q. 5. While writing in formal letter, how can you make it gender neutral?
Ans. Make your Letters Gender Neutral
Try solving this riddle: A young man is rushed to hospital after a road accident. He is taken to the operating theatre immediately for an emergency operation but the surgeon takes one look at the patient and says “I cannot operate on this man, he’s my son”. The surgeon is not the patient’s father. Who is the surgeon?
Here, the surgeon is the son of the speaker.
We should recognize and respect change in the meaning and acceptability of words. With the changing roles of men and women, we should also change in the use of language. In Old English, the word girl meant a young person of either sex.
We should not use words that do not accurately represent the people we are addressing. Read the text in the box below and see the way communication is perceived by people in the workplace today.
The English word girl (first documented in 1290) originally designated a child of either sex. To differentiate between the two genders, a female child was called a gay girl, while a male child was called a knave girl. During the 14th century its sense was narrowed to specifically female children. Subsequently, it was extended to refer also to mature but unmarried young women since the 1530s.
Another example is given below. Since the majority of physicians historically have been male and most secretaries female, the cultural habit is to refer to all physicians as he and all secretaries as she when their particular gender is not known.
One may state, several years ago I received a cover letter and resume for an open position, The cover letter was addressed to the “The Marketing Director”, but the salutation was “Dear Sir.” I was stunned. That this person clearly assumed the Marketing Director was a male stunned me. I did keep the resume and cover letter on my desk for a couple of days, but only to show my colleagues. I did not consider the writer fit for my department and did not respond to his application.
“Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor; I hope he is friendly. I don’t know his secretary either – I hope she’s efficient.”
However, unless we are sure that the new doctor is male, it would be better to change the sentence so it does not use the pronoun “he”.
Options might include:
“Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor: I hope he or she is friendly.”
“Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor, who I hope is friendly.”
“Tomorrow I will meet my new doctor; I hope the doctor is friendly.”
We should use the pronouns he, his, him, and himself should be used only when referring to a male person. We should not use all masculine nouns and pronouns to refer to both men and women. We now commonly use flight attendant instead of steward or stewardess, and salesperson or sales representative to replace salesman or saleswoman. Instead of a lady doctor, it is better to say a doctor because lady doctor means that doctors are
usually male. Similarly. we should say an actorinstead of an actress. We should also avoid stereotyping. For example, we should use ‘Both the applicant and spouse should sign’ instead of ‘both the applicant and his wife should sign’.
Q. 6. What are ‘Schemata’? What is their role in reading?
Ans. Strategies Used by Good Readers: A good reader interacts with the texts he reads. He has personal expectations about what he wants to get out of a text. He creates meaning by constructing, or generating relationships between what he reads and what he already know. In generating these meanings, he draws on their prior knowledge of and beliefs about the subject and relates to the subjects. Readers have prior understanding about a topic, what is called as schemata. In reading, they add to those networks, filling in some of the gaps with what they know, or in their existing schemata.
The figure shows the relationships among prior knowledge, a text and the meanings a reader gets in relation to the text. It summarizes the schema theory. The figure shows that a good reader relies also on his prior knowledge of how language works, of how ideas are organised in writing and of how different forms are structured.
Schemata helps readers to match what they know with what the written text tells them, i.e., to monitor their comprehension. If there is some deficiency at the level of analysing print i.e. decoding problems like poor word recognition, the higher level knowledge of the topic (i.e. schemata) will compensate for the deficiency. Reading is thus an interactive process; there is a simultaneous interaction of the reader’s prior know-ledge and his sampling of the text; this is done cons-tantly while reading.
An example is given to explain it further. A short text you are required to read starts with the following sentence:
Mukesh was on his way to railway station last Monday.
The questions which can be raised are: Who was Mukesh? How did you know him? Did you know him from the textual information or on the basis of your prior knowledge?
The next sentence of the text is:
He was really happy that his father was coming home.
Have you now changed your view about Mukesh? Why?
The third sentence:
Last week he played the district cricket tourna-ment. You may be now sure who Mukesh was?
The fourth sentence:
He scored a winning score for his team.
Now your inference about him might have changed further? Why?
The last sentence:
He was the man of the match.
Are you now clear in your mind about who Mukesh was?
Schemata represent knowledge about concepts: objects and the relationships they have with other objects, situations, events, sequences of events, actions and sequences of actions.
Individuals have schemata for everything. Long before students come to school, they develop schemata
(units of knowledge) about everything they experience. Schemata become theories about reality. These theories not only affect the way information is interpreted, thus affecting comprehension, but also continue to change as new information is received.
II. A New recruit has just joined your organisation. Write a dialogue in 10 turns, where you, as a senior colleageue, explain the role he/she is expected to perform in the organisation.
Ans. You: Hi there, it is Mayank, right?
Colleague: Hi, yes. You must be Shikhar. You have recently joined the company, right?
You: Yes indeed. The group manager Mukul told me that you would be my mentor for the first four months of the training.
Colleague: Oh right. I will be training you on the digital marketing module. Do you have any prior experience with the same?
You: I have a basic knowledge of how SEO work and have done content writing for several firms. Now keen to expand into a role of digital marketing specialist.
Colleague: Awesome. I have been working for six years in this domain so should be able to guide you well.
You: Thanks a lot, Mayank. This is my first day only. Are there any formalities I have to complete, apart from those told by the HR?
Colleague: I think you should be fine. I hope you know where the cafeteria is? And have you got your transport stuff all sorted out? They don’t allow anyone to sit in the shuttle unless the name is in the roster.
You: Oh no, I haven’t. Thanks for informing. I will do it during recess.
Colleague: Yes, do that. Where do you put up at?
You: I stay in Noida, Sector 137.
Colleague: Gosh! That’s quite far from Gurgaon!
You: I agree.
Colleague: It must be quite tiring for you to commute all the way from Noida daily?
You: Indeed it is, but there were no job opportunities in Noida. All job offers I received were from Gurgaon only.
Colleague: Okay. Let’s see! If commuting becomes too much of a hassle then I can set you up with one of my friends. He is looking for a PG partner.
You: That’s cool. Let’s see how this travelling goes.
Colleague: Yes. Do you have any queries? Ask away!
You: I haven’t received my employee ID yet. When will I get it?
Colleague: It takes a few days. You see Shalini sitting over there? She joined a couple of days back and still hasn’t received her. You can talk to her and both of you can get it done from the facilities department.
You: Sounds good. Also, what is the working atmosphere here like? I just want a heads-up before I know how to approach people!
Colleague: Well, our supervisor Priyanka is all cool as long as the work is going good. But if a client feedback is not so flattering then she can lose it. Rest, all other members of the team are chilled out. You won’t have any problem gelling with them.
You: Ah, that is great. Okay, do we also have to come on Saturdays?
Colleague: That happens rarely. I can’t quite remember the last time we came on a Saturday. We do stretch on some days when there are urgent client deliverables.
You: Can you just brief me about the modules I would be covering?
Colleague: Sure, there will be seven modules during the training–SEO, SEM, Web Analytics, E-mail marketing, SMM, Content Marketing and Mobile Marketing.
You: Great! I hope to learn a lot.
Colleague: You will also be given access to online courses at Lynda so that you can learn additional stuff at your own place.
You: Wow! That is amazing. By the way, how is the food at the cafeteria?
Colleague: It is quite okay, but we get bored of it after some time. We have the option of ordering from nearby outlets and there is a tie-up with Swiggy so that all deliveries are free.
You: Perfect. Food should be good, don’t you agree?
Colleague: Haha! It is, don’t worry.
You: Will I be formally introduced to other team members?
Colleague: There will be a grand party at Hyatt for all the new joinees in this quarter. You will get to introduce yourself there. It will be loads of fun! Chillax!
You: Thank you!
Colleague: You’re welcome. Should we get started with the training?
You: Absolutely. Let’s begin!
Write a well-structured essay on the following topics:
(a) Higher education in India in the 21st century.
Ans. The higher education system in India has grown in a remarkable way after independence, to become one of the largest systems of its kind in the world. We now live in an increasingly diverse, globalized, and complex, media-saturated society. Despite of that, the system has many issues of concern at present, like financing and management, adequate infrastructure, technology and research, access and equity, safeguarding of national academic standards, ethical relevance, improvement and enhancement of quality of higher education together with the assessment of institutions and their accreditation.
Under-investment in libraries, information technology, laboratories, and classrooms makes it very difficult to provide top-quality instruction or engage in cutting-edge era. These issues are important for the country, as it is now engaged in the use of higher education as a powerful tool to build a knowledge-based information society of the 21st century. With significant improvements in school education and higher education programs such as SSA, RMSA and RUSA, it is the right time to address the higher education system in the country.
The urgent need has been to address the shortcomings of the entire process of converting youth into educated and well groomed citizens. At present, there is a vast need to analyse critically our higher education system and to measure for making India a knowledge-based democratic and wisdom society.
India’s higher education is managed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the various councils. The UGC, set-up under UGC Act 1956, has been empowered to promote and coordinate university education in India and also approve grants to them. The UGC is responsible for co-ordination, determination and maintenance of standards and release of grants to universities and research organizations. Various professional councils are responsible for recognition of courses, promotion of professional institutions and provision of grants to undergraduate programmes. In the last six decades, the higher education sector in India has witnessed exponential growth, both in terms of the number of institutions and the rate of enrolment. While talking about the growth in student enrolment, the recent UGC report states that in 1950-51, when there were only 3, 97,000 students enrolled in all disciplines in 750 colleges affiliated to 30 universities. Now, the growth of higher education in India has been phenomenal. As
of 6 September, 2016, India had 784 universities (47 central universities, 353 state universities, 123 deemed universities, 246 private universities, etc.), around 100 institutes of national importance, over 45,000 colleges and about 13,000 stand alone institutions. The state with the most universities is Rajasthan with 73 universities and it has the most private universities. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world comprising numerous stand-alone technical/professional institutions with annual enrolment in excess of 25 million students.
Education System in India currently represents a great contradiction. On the one hand, we have IIMs and IITs that rank among the best institutes in the world and on the other hand there are number of schools and colleges in the country that do not even have the basic infrastructure. Even more than 66 years after independence we are far away from the goal of universal literacy. But on a positive note, Indian professionals are considered among the best in the world are in great demand. With about 50% of the Indian population below the age of 25 years, and an estimated 150 million people in the age group of 18-23 years. The structure of degree-granting institutions is cumbersome primarily due to affiliation and funding sources. More than 85% of students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs with majority enrolling in three-year B.A., B.Com. or B.Sc. degrees. One-sixth of all Indian students are enrolled in Engineering/Technology degrees.
(b) Cultural diversity in India.
Ans. Cultural Diversity in India India has a history of thousands of years. People have been living in India since the Stone Age. People from different regions of the world came to India. They became one with the Indian culture. From this has evolved the composite Indian Culture. All of us living in different parts of the
country are Indians. Though there is a variety in our languages, literature and art, as Indians, we all are one. It is this diversity which has created a sense of unity among the Indians. This diversity has enriched our social life.
Indian Languages: Many languages are spoken in India. Hindi and English are the two languages used in our country. Marathi is the state language of Maharashtra.
Festival Celebrations: People such as: Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Parsis, etc, belonging to different religion and lifestyles in India. Different festivals are celebrated in India with lots of joys and happiness. Agriculture is the main occupation in our country. Many of our festivals are related to agriculture and environment. Whatever religious festival all Indians happily participate in it. They greet one another. It increase the feeling of unity among them.
Costumes and Food: We find diversity in the clothing and food habits of Indians. Clothing depends upon the climate, physical features and traditions of the respective regions. There is diversity in our food habits too, due to climatic conditions crops and other geographical factors.
Each state has its unique food item and food habits. East, West, North and South People have different food habits. Depending on the weather, bodily features, and customs, there is a huge variety in clothing too. People live in different types of houses that are specially constructed to suit the climate conditions. It shows that India has got an enormous diversity in many ways. The cultural diversity of India includes everything related to the Indians. Irrespective of this diversity, all Indians are one by heart. They live in harmony equally and contribute for the progress and unity and integrity of our country. The unity in diversity is a blessing. This makes the India more strong and powerful.
III. You have been offered a job as a research assistant in a leading research organisation. Write a formal letter of acceptance to the head of the organisation.
Ans. 1435 Raisana Road, Nagpur
Mr. Mohan Lal
2701 Kampty Road
Dear Ms. Shruti,
I am writing to confirm my acceptance of your employment offer of Research Assistant on April 20 and to tell you how delighted I am to be joining XYZ Corporation in Nagpur. The work is exactly what I have prepared to perform and hoped to do. I feel confident that I can make a significant contribution to the corporation, and I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me.
As we discussed, I will report to work at 8:00 a.m on July 1 and will have to come with completed medical examination and drug testing reports. Additionally, I shall complete all employment and insurance forms for the new employee orientation.
I look forward to working with you and your fine team. I appreciate your confidence in me and am very happy to be joining your staff.
Sincerely, Mohal Lal
A group of five students have been given the topic:
“Encouraging children to develop good reading habits.” Write out a group discussion on this topic.
Ans. Group discussion on ‘Encouraging children to develop good reading habits’.
Ravi: Make sure that your children observe you reading on a regular basis. What you read is not important–when your child sees you reading recipes, magazines, newspapers, books, telephone directories, and other reading materials, it will reinforce the importance of reading.
Pankaj: To stimulate reading, keep reading materials throughout the house. This will increase your child’s access to books and printed material. Help them understand that reading doesn’t only happen at school–it can happen anywhere. Studies suggest that learners who read outside of school are more successful readers and students. If you cannot read easily, talk about the pictures in books, magazines, and newspapers with your child. It is important for your child to observe your efforts in acquiring reading abilities. In addition, ask them to read aloud to you or to tell you about what they have read in their own words.
Rakesh: Visit your public library often, and take advantage of the resources offered there. You can get a library card and borrow books, cds, and dvds from the library for free! Make sure to get your children their own library cards, and ask a librarian for help if you don’t know how to sign up for one.
Sonia: Encourage your children to read in their native language. If reading skills are developed in the native language they will transfer into English. Developing reading skills in their native language will not hinder children’s ability to read in English – it will help!
Richa: Do not allow your kids to watch television until they have done their daily reading. As your child becomes a better reader, talk about what he/she is reading. When your child finishes a new story or reading assignment, discuss the main ideas, new words and concepts, and your child’s favourite section. This will help strengthen your child’s reading comprehension skills.
IV. What are the characteristics of a conversation? How is a conversation different from other speech events?
Ans. Conversation: We spend a large part of our lives engaging in conversation and for most of us conversation is among our most significant and engrossing activities. Researchers from various academic disciplines have looked at conversation as an object of inquiry and come up with fascinating findings. Psychologists and linguists have made observations about conversation.
The term conversation is used somewhat ambiguously in current literature. It is used sometimes to refer to any spoken encounter or interaction and sometimes, more restrictedly, total occurring when a small number of participants come together and settle into what they perceive to be a few moments cut off from instrumental tasks.
The activities which are directly governed by norms for the use of speech are called speech events. As speech events, conversations can be contrasted with other types of speech events, like lectures, interviews, discussions, meetings and debates.
Characteristics and Conventions of Conversation
The Co-operative and Politeness Principle: In conversation, people share common principles of conversation that lead them to interpret each other’s utterances as contributing to the conversation.
An assumption is that if we ask a question to someone, whatever the receiver say will somehow be interpreted as constituting an answer to the question.
Take the following example:
A: What did you eat in the morning?
B: I ate a banana.
Let us now consider the following:
A: What did you eat in the morning?
B: You could have talked to your teacher.
In the latter question, the speaker B does not follow the principle described above and hence the exchange is uninterruptable.
Philosopher Grice has described four Maxims or Principles of Co-operative Behaviour which speakers observe in conversation.
(i) Maxim of Quantity: Your contribution should be just as informative as needed.
(ii) Maxim of Quality: Your contribution should be one that is true.
(iii) Maxim of Relation: Your contribution should be relevant.
(iv) Maxim of Manner: You should avoid obscurity and ambiguity and be brief and orderly.
Conversation is more than a series of exchanges. In includes exchanges that are started and interpreted according to intuitively understood and socially acquired rules and norms of conversational coope-ration. These can in turn be manipulated to create a wide range of meanings beyond the level expressed directly by the utterances in the conversation itself.
Take the example below:
A: I am feeling very hot inside the room.
B: I will open the windows.
The meaning of B’s response can be inferred. The room is hot because the windows are closed and the opening the windows will bring fresh air inside and it will cool the room. Thus, B’s response is relevant and interpretable.
The four maxims can be used to express sarcasm, irony, criticism and a range of other types of inferential meaning. Take the exchange below:
A: Will it rain today?
B: You can go the town and come back.
It manipulates the maxims of conversation and suggests that it may not rain and he can go to the town and come back after finishing the works. However, at the workplace indirect speech acts and manipulation of maxims are generally avoided. The relevance of Grice’s Maxims to conversation in a second/foreign language depends on the degree to which such maxims are universal or language specific. For example, we Indian are very modest while talking about themselves and achievements in a job interview; but in Europe people generally boast, or brag even in a job interview.
Adjacency Pairs: Adjacency pairs are utterances produced by two successive speakers such that the second utterance is identified as related to the first as an expected follow-up.
The first utterance and the second form a pair. Adjacency pair is the basic structural unit in conversation. Examples of adjacency pairs are given below:
(i) Greeting-Greeting A: Good morning
B: Good morning
A: You have a nice pair of shoes.
In adjacency pair, the rule is that when a speaker produces a recognizable first pair part, he should stop talking and the addressee should produce the second part. Adjacency pairs thus provide for turn-taking, and also prescribe the type of talking that the next talker can do.
In some adjacency pairs, there will be several options available as second pair parts. An example of such adjacency pairs is given below:
A: Who took away the papers from the table? Apology
B: No, I didn’t. It must have been Suresh.
B: I needed them for home works.
B: You shouldn’t have kept them here. Challenge
B: So what? Check they are must be there.
Openings and Closings: The openings and closings of conversations are organized and orderly. Even the native speakers have to learn the openings and closings of conversations like other social behaviours. Non-native speakers need to give special attention on openings and closings of conversations.
Openings and closings depend on speech event. For a formal meeting, for example, there is an initial summons. A conversation is quite different from many other speech events because it has no specified setting, no time or place, no required roles other than ‘persons’ involved, no pre-specified agenda and a quorum of simply two or more. Like other speech activities, however, conversations must be opened. Commonly, this is done through the use of an adjacency pair like Greeting-Greeting, Request-Grant, Question-Answer, or Statement-Response. An example of speech event is given below:
A: Good morning
B: Good Morning. How can I help you?
A: I want to meet Mr. Sumit.
B: Which Mr. Sumit do you want meet? We’ve two Sumit in this office.
A: He’s Marketing Chief.
B: Do you have an appointment?
A: I’m afraid not.
B: Let me check if he is free. What’s your name?
A: Amit Agrawal from Dubai. (Mr. Agrawal waits a few minutes in the waiting room).
B: I’m sorry he’s busy with his team.
A: When will he be free?
B: No idea. Can I take a message from you?
A: Will you tell him I came to see him?
B: I will, certainly
A: Thank you.
B: You are welcome.
Topic Development: Developing the topic of conversation is another important dimension of conversational organization. Coherent conversations follow norms on the choice of topics. For example, in a business meeting, the participants will take turn to speak only on “The items on the agenda notified in advance and from among these only on that item which is being discussed at the moment.” Topics may develop in a planned manner. For example, the meeting may have agenda to discuss various issues or different works serially as per the list prepared by the organisers of the meeting.
Turn Taking: Conversation involves two or more people. The distribution of talking among the participants is governed by turn taking norms, conventions which determine who talks, when, and for how long. Rules for turn-taking differ and depends the type of speech event. In a classroom, for example, students generally raise their hand to take a turn to talk.
Repairs: Conversation involves monitoring to ensure that the intended messages have been
communicated and understood. It involves correction whenever it is suspected that the message has not been received as intended. Repair means the efforts by the speaker or the hearer to correct trouble spots in conversation. Repairs may be initiated by either the speaker or the hearer. An example is given below:
A: Mr. Agrawal is in a meeting.
A: Mr. Agrawal is in a meeting at the moment. Difference Between Conversation and Other Speech Events
According to Hymes, speech events are activities that are directly governed by norms for the use of speech. There are speech events like lectures, discussions, meetings, interviews and debates. Each of these speech events are different because they differin the number of participants who participate in them, and through differences in the type and amount of talking expected of the participant, the setting, quorum, if any, needed. Speech events, like conversations, also have identifiable rules for proper beginnings, middles and endings. Openings and closings are speech event-specific. In many speech events, there is an initial summons, e.g. a memo/notice calling for a meeting and participants assemble over time before the occasion actually starts.
A specified setting may be there like a hall or a classroom. The persons who assemble are oriented to as specified category members. They may be club members, union members or students at a college. Some events like a formal meeting such as the Annual General Body Meeting of the company, needs a specified number of participants before the events may start. Some speech events may not begin even if the needed persons are present. There may be background noise and conversation at different corners in the room.
Lecture differs from conversation. Lecture, whether written or spoken from notes, is non-reciprocal. There are no adjacency pairs, no turn taking, and no immediate verbal feed back as we have in conversation. So the speaker has to propel the communication on his own. This does not mean that lecture (or a written discourse) is not an interactive process of negotiation. It is interactive but this interaction is conducted by the speaker himself by enacting the roles of speaker and of audience.
Since there is no immediate response he has to expect what is likely to happen and provide for any possible misunderstanding arising from the lack of shared knowledge. According to Widdowson, lecturing is the enactment of an exchange, with the speaker taking on the roles of both the interlocutors. But whereas in spoken discourse (conversation) this negotiation process is typically overt and reciprocal, in lectures and written communication it is covert and non-reciprocal. In the absence of immediate verbal reaction from his audience, the speaker has a basic problem: he has a message to impart and he has to prepare the ground and set up conditions favourable to the reception of such information. He does this by continually changing his function from speaker to hearer, enacting the interaction by playing the role of each interlocutor as in the following example: Yesterday I told you about written communication. Today I shall talk about oral communication. “Oral communication implies communication through mouth. It includes individuals conversing with each other, be it direct conversation or telephonic conversation. Speeches, presentations, discussions are all forms of oral communication. Oral communication is generally recommended when the communication matter is of temporary kind or where a direct interaction is required. Face-to-face
communication (meetings, lectures, conferences, interviews, etc.) is significant so as to build a rapport and trust.”
In the above text, the speaker asserts in the first sentence and the subsequent sentences are then said to support what he says in the first sentence as if to answer the question of the listener:
The text can be written in the following ways: Speaker: Oral communication implies communi
cation through mouth.
Listener(s): Please elaborate it with examples. Speaker: It includes individuals conversing with
each other, be it direct conversation or telephonic conversation.
Listener(s): When do we need oral communication?
Speaker: Oral communication is generally recommended when the communication matter is of temporary kind or where a direct interaction is required.
Thus, like written discourse, a lecture involves nonreciprocal interaction and the result of this is a text. The audience need to interpret this text to rebuild the interaction as it does not reveal the second person’s reactions which the speaker expects by enacting the other participant’s role. In this sense, lecturing is covert and non-reciprocal and differs from conversation which is overt and reciprocal.
What are the four levels of reading comprehension? Explain each briefly with suitable examples.
Ans. Levels of Meaning: Readers operate cognitively at four highly interrelated and overlapping levels of meaning: (i) the literal, (ii) the interpretive, (iii) the critical, and (iv) the creative.
(i) Literal: Literal comprehension involves the reader in understanding the information given in a text
which may be facts and details, series of events, main ideas and generalizations, causes and effects. At this level, the key element is that the information is present “in black and white” in the text. The reader has to say exactly what the passage is saying, to make sure that he understands it. For example, if the text is about how to make read a poem, the reader should be able to say the steps to read a poem. In literal comprehension, the reader has to understand paragraph, sentence and word meanings. The reader does not have to dig too deeply into the text to understand it.
(ii) Interpretive: At the interpretive level, the reader reads ‘between the lines’ to recognise ideas and information not directly stated. The reader has to make inferences. He may have to infer time relationships – the year, time of day and season; geographical relationships; cause and effect relationships; the ages, feelings and familial relationships of characters; main ideas and generalizations if these are not stated clearly in the text. The reader needs to study the facts given in the text and puts two and two together in making the inference.
Writers do not always state facts directly. They imply emotions and attitudes, and suggest points of view. For example, an author may not state directly that a particular character is bad, but the words he uses to describe that person and the situation he presents him in may convey the author’s attitude towards that character. A perceptive reader should be able to recognise this attitude. He has to get beyond the outer meaning of words and see what the implications of such words are. For example, the same persons could be called “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” according to the writer’s attitude towards them.
In describing someone eating, a writer may write, “wolfed down” “guzzled” or “slobbered”. If the writer is describing a baby eating, these words may be a
statement of fact, but if he is describing are about an adult eating, these may a suggestion of distaste towards the person who is eating.
Interpretive reading also involves ferreting out meanings expressed through literary allusions, idiomatic expressions and figures of speech. The writer who writes of a character, “He had no heart”, does not mean this literally but is relying on an idiom to communicate meaning. Another author who describes a person as having a “Midas Touch” is expressing something special, something meaningful, only to the reader who recognises the reference to the king who wanted everything he touched to turn to gold.
The poet who speaks of “crossing the bar” refers metaphorically to death; he is not speaking literally of crossing a sand bar. The scientist who refers to the earth as a lifeboat to explain relationships aboard a planet troubled by the problems of limited resources and increasing population is also relying on a metaphor to put his message across. One of the most difficult interpretations a reader must make is in terms of these kinds of inferences. The reader must bring to bear his
previous experiences with language, literature and life in making meanings.
(iii) Critical: In critical reading, the reader has to make judgements with regard to a text. The reader may judge the accuracy of facts, the validity of conclusions made or the effectiveness of the author’s style. For instance, a writer may have used a very flowery language to create an atmosphere, or he may write ‘tongue in cheek’. In critical reading, the reader also gives reasons for the judgement and stating the criteria used in making it, commenting on the views expressed and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the treatment of the ideas.
(iv) Creative: In creative reading, the reader generates new ideas and uses insights, applications and approaches. It needs invention, prediction and use of the imagination. The reader proposes an alternative conclusion or generalization based on a reading text and suggesting related examples. Exercises in creative reading also include composing orally, drawing and writing stories with the same pattern or same words as in those that the reader has read.