Saturday, January 23, 2010

Practice Taking Telephone Messages

by Ann Abbott

Once again, Darcy Lear and I had a conversation today about how difficult it is for students to take accurate telephone messages in the community, yet students and other instructors seem to assume that teaching that in the classroom is "too simple."

If it were so simple, our community partners wouldn't complain when they get error-ridden telephone messages from our students.

I think it's so difficult for a variety of reasons, including these:
  • In class, we expect students' listening comprehension to be at the macrolevel. They need to get the "gist" of our classes so that they can take good notes. They need to catch the over-arching themes in a movie we show them. They don't need to understand every word for that. To catch a phone number--you need to understand every single number. It's a very different task.
  • On the telephone, there are no visual signals to accompany the aural input.
  • In English, we tend to recite our phone numbers one number at a time. In Spanish, they usually don't. When your expectations aren't met, that's confusing.
  • Think about how fast you say your own telephone number. If you're like me, you say it really fast. Because you have it memorized. It's something you don't even think about. That speed can be hard for our students to pick up on.
Comunidades has an entire Lección devoted to taking telephone messages, because it is truly that important for all our students who will work in the community in an office setting.

For extra practice, have your students do the "Numerales" listening exercises at this site. They can check their ability to understand telephone numbers using the "tests" on the site. But many of the audio clips have addresses, websites, and more. In class, you can pass out a telephone message slip, ask them to listen to selected clips, and have them take down a complete message. I think I'm pretty good, but these were challenging even for me!

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