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Description And Analysis Of The Spoken Interaction

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This report involves a reflection on two instances of successful and less successful communication in an academic context. Both these instances took place as part of my second-year Communications degree on the subject of Academic English. One instance has been related to verbal communication and the other instance has also been related to spoken/verbal communication.

The context of the first interaction

The first instance involved a case of successful communication in week 4 of the course, reflecting on our academic writing process. The activity consisted of discussing the multiple choice questions provided in a group of four people, and answering them as part of a group discussion activity.

Description and analysis of the spoken interaction

‘Successful communication’ in an academic context is being able to produce coherent language, and being able to communicate effectively with others through the proper use of verbal and non-verbal cues. A successful communication in an academic context is an elaboration on the process of transmission and understanding of the intended message and in a successful communication in an academic context common perception is created and changing behaviours are observed in order to gain information.

At the start of the discussion, one of my fellow students suggested to take turns around the table clockwise to answer the questions. We used eye contact to signal who would be talking next, and at the end of the discussion we all recapitulated each of our points. In the course of the discussion both verbal and non-verbal cues were explored and analysed and this provided us with the opportunity to continue with the discussion topic effectively.

Hence, considering the presence of elements like turn taking, eye contact, etc it must be said that the discussion should be linked to Bygate’s (1987) framework of agenda management, turn taking and routines. This also links to the principle in academic communication as proposed by England (2017).

It was the presence of the aforesaid communication elements which rendered the discussion success and eventually made the participants understand the need of amalgamating verbal and non-verbal cues in a communication process to make the same effective.

The context of the second interaction

The second instance involved a case of less successful communication in week 11 of the course. The communication took place in an academic context. This group activity consisted of sharing our experiences in terms of successes and challenges of academic speaking in different situations. Our group consisted of five members.


Description and analysis of the spoken interaction

‘Unsuccessful communication’ in an academic context is considered to be a process that has been affected by certain barriers. In an unsuccessful communication often the language becomes the primary barrier, making it quite difficult for the speaker and the audience to understand each other’s actual needs. Apart from language barrier there are several other barriers that need to be evaluated and wiped out in order to make a communication successful in an academic context.

As discussion time started, a fellow student and myself synchronously started talking, which abruptly stopped the flow of the discussion. As we pick up our conversation again, another fellow student was unsure of what my answer meant, therefore asked, “what do you mean?” My incapability of explaining my experience made me feel vulnerable and useless. This feeling of fruitlessness should be related to Bygate’s framework of turn taking and negotiation. What I have realized as the cause of the communication failure in the given context was that, I was unable to keep my patience in terms of understanding the value of turn taking and in terms of negotiation. I should have given others the chance to discuss but I did not, and this hampered the entire discussion process. Moreover, as England (2017) has suggested, a fruitful communication process relies largely on effective interaction, and it was my failure to interact effectively which put me under distress and dissatisfaction.  Moreover, what I have learned from the failure is that; I failed to interact and communicate properly primarily because I did fail to negotiate. As I failed to negotiate, I did fail to negotiate the meaning of the content I was supposed to convey. In this respect I must mention the principle that Bygate (1987) has highlighted. By negotiation of meaning, Bygate (1987) referred to “the skill of communicating ideas clearly. This includes the way participants signal understanding during an exchange, and is an aspect of spoken interaction with contrasts most sharply with the position of the reader and writer of the written record.” Even though the scenario was speaking-oriented, I did fail to communicate my ideas clearly to the other participants and that was the reason why I did fail to negotiate the meaning of my conversation.

Hence, I must say that the incident was linked to Bygate’s (1987) framework of turn taking and negotiation of meaning and to the principles of academic communication as prescribed by England (2017).

Suggestions for more successful communication

Suggestions for better turn taking

Write what would you actually say

Signalling you want a turn, recognizing the others want a turn, or letting someone else have a turn.

Use eye-contact

“Can I please say something here?”

“I agree. I also do want to mention this…”

Suggestions for better negotiation of meaning

Procedures for ensuring understanding

Other fellow student could have said “Could I clarify something? / Can I check I’ve understood you?”

Discipline-Specific Variation

It is noteworthy that communication is also subject-oriented and in the academic context there are two aspects which determine the efficacy of a communication process, viz., the nature of the content of the communication process and the nature of the activities related to the communication process. The nature of the content, as England (2017) has suggested, deserves special mention in the context of successful and effective academic communication. What I have observed is that; in different academic subjects, depending on the contents of the subject the entire process of turn taking or negotiating either change continuously or sustain stagnancy. For an instance, in the context of English communication (including speaking and writing) the speaker or the writer has to consider the needs of the audience apart from analysing the content of the speech. But this might not be the case in respect of making students understand the real importance of the concept of sovereignty. In this respect it must be noted that the political concept of sovereignty demands understanding and not interaction, and that is one reason why the communication mode for conveying the importance of the concept of sovereignty should be different than the communication mode meant for enhancing students’ English communication skills.

In terms of the nature of activities concerned with spoken interactions in different academic subjects what I have observed is that the related activities are determinant of whether or not a communication process is going to be successful. In this respect one must note that, “In spoken interaction, speaker and listener do not merely have to be good processors of the spoken work, able to produce coherent language in the difficult circumstances of spoken communication. It is also useful if they are good communicators, that is, good at saying what they want to say in a way which the listener finds understandable” (Bygate,1987). This proves the importance of activities in a particular communication process. Moreover, in terms of activities, it can be interesting to note that the activities that must be applied by a teacher in teaching the importance of sovereignty to the students should vary and differ from the activities that usually a teacher of communicative English embrace in respect of teaching students effective ways of communicating. In this respect the concept of routine, as outlined and emphasized by Bygate (1987), comes to play a significant and crucial role. In terms of teaching political science or international relations a teacher might adhere to routines which can be defined as “conventional ways of presenting information” (Bygate,). But this might not be the case with a communicative English teacher who has to make the students understand that the context and mode of communication is both relative and situational. Hence, in terms of teaching communicative English it is not always possible to stick to routines.

The nature of the content

The nature of the activities

The similarities I have observed in the spoken interaction in this subject compared with

The differences I have observed in the spoken interaction in this subject compared with



England, N. 2017, 'Principles of academic communication', UTS Subject Academic English: Communication Fundamentals, Week 1 lecture notes, UTS, Sydney.

Bygate, M. 1987, Speaking, Oxford University Press, Oxford.


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