Life & Work through English

The Study of Spoken Language

Pre-Task Ideas

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Important Notice

The materials in this section relate to the legacy GCSE English Language specification (no longer available for teaching) however, they may still be of use to teachers and students. Centres should ensure they fulfil the requirements of the current GCSE English Language specification.

You can access worksheets and resources from the Teachit website resource library for Key Stage 4 at for many of the following topics. You can also access your resources on the TES Connect site at Many audio sources are available on

We have made links to suggested resources where possible so that you can display them on your whiteboard.

Click on the Topics tab to view suggested activities and to access sample PowerPoints. These can be adapted and linked to resources of your choice.

Such introductory activities can frame your initial discussions and focus the students’ attention on the holistic nature of the task. It is important if picking out individual features to link them to:

  • how they contribute to the overall effectiveness of the talk on the listener; and
  • how the situation shapes the choice of language.

The task provides a welcome break from traditional functional language appreciation. Explore humour and dialect and encourage students to record sample talk from their own environment.

You can create tasks by comparing a ‘real’ example of talk (for example spontaneous talk) to a dramatised example (for example sketches, scripted talk). An actual court scene or a political speech could be compared to the equivalent in a film.

Remember: when studying the pieces of talk being analysed for the Controlled Assessment Task, you should listen to the pieces first to appreciate fully the language used.


There are many approaches to the Study of Spoken Language. Here are some topics that you could use to develop introductory activities to the area of study.

Spoken v written language

Your pre-task work could begin by discussing the differences between written and spoken language. Students could list occasions when we use spoken language. Ask them to identify what they see as the key differences, and discuss these.

Look at the transcript of a script and ask students to analyse the language using the techniques they would use when reading a text. Students should then listen to the speech and note any differences in impact. Discuss whether the spoken word was more effective. Why was this? The language was chosen to have an impact on listeners, so hearing it allows the students to appreciate the full impact. Each of these has a PowerPoint presentation that you can use in class.

The features of spoken language

Students might then wish to look at the features of spoken language. Ask them what is different about the way we say words, as opposed to the way we read them. See Key Terms and Devices for some ideas for discussion.

Idiolect/Sociolect: why do we use the words we do?

Discuss what influences the words we use. List the things that contribute to an individual’s idiolect. Examples include hometown, family, friends, television, and hobbies. Discuss factors that impact on the development of an individual’s talk and how they use language. Look at the use of slang. Ask the class to come up with as many alternatives as they can for a word, for example money.

Adapting language

Discuss how and when we adapt our use of language. What different audiences do the students talk to? How can an audience differ, in areas such as age, knowledge, experience, power? What different situations cause us to change the language we use? Why do we adapt language to different audiences, for example authority figures, speaking to someone younger/older, friends, family, and to different situations such as interviews, workplaces, and parties?

Discuss the different purposes behind talk, for example:

  • explain
  • persuade
  • defend
  • recount
  • encourage
  • instruct
  • entertain.

Why do we need to adapt language for each of these purposes? What way do we adapt language for each purpose?

Listen to a piece of talk. Discuss the audience, purpose and context. How do these influence the language chosen?

Types of talk

Draw up a list of some different types of talk. Some examples are:

  • spontaneous
  • scripted
  • formal
  • informal
  • conversation
  • debate
  • presentation
  • broadcast
  • interview
  • commentary
  • eulogy.

Compare and contrast the purpose, context, audience and features.