- Remind the class that students sometimes complain that they have no one to practise speaking with, but tell them that they always have one person to talk to themselves – and that in our own language all of us talk to ourselves sometimes. They can practise a lot by doing the same in English.
- Ask them to take out a piece of paper. When you ask a question or give them a prompt, they should observe what they say to themselves. You can use the ones below or think of others appropriate for your students. Tell them they can use their mother tongue if they need to, but to try to write as much as they can in English. After each prompt, pause about 10 seconds, then ask them to write down any words they said to themselves in either language, even if what they say is This is silly or I don’t want to do this!
- You might model first how you talk to yourself. Try this; point to a pile of papers and say: Have to finish correcting. Just too much. Really tired today. Maybe later. Yeah. Explain that we talk in short phrases, not long complete sentences.
Prompts: Last weekend … That problem I have … The government … School … This activity … Me … Them … Nice … Life … Fun … Tiger …
- First, put them in pairs and ask them to share some of their inner speech. Then ask if they want to share with the class anything they both said or anything they found interesting about the activity.
- Review the importance of developing inner speech in their new language, and recommend further work to be done out of class.
OUT OF CLASS
- Tell students when they have down time with nothing to do (riding on a bus, waiting for someone …) they can practise and improve their English using inner speech. Either give them a list of several options to choose from or make one suggestion to be done several times during the week. To encourage them to try this exercise you could have them decide on the option individually and tell them that the following week in pairs they will have to tell their partner which option they used and how it went.
There are many reasons for focusing on inner speech, a type of auditory imaging which puts our thoughts into words. Research has shown that not only is comprehensible input necessary for second language acquisition, but learners also need to work with new language and express themselves through some form of output. However, they may be afraid of making mistakes in front of their peers and the teacher, and so be unwilling to produce the necessary output. Inner-speech work can give them the opportunity to do so in a totally safe way. While they won’t be getting external corrective feedback, they will be motivated to resolve any doubts they have. When they don’t have the right word to say what they want, they are likely try to find it as soon as possible in dictionaries or by asking others. With inner speech we are saying what we feel the need to say, and so this results in a much greater interest in having the necessary linguistic material to do so at our disposal.
Inner speech work is a great help, not just for the general learning process but also for when learners have a specific use of language in mind. They can rehearse answering possible questions for an oral exam or interacting with someone about a certain topic (ordering food in a restaurant, asking someone directions…). Perhaps one of the best tests for successful acquisition of a language is when you begin to speak to yourself naturally in the language!