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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 17 | May 06, 2007|


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The role of 'Role-Play' in Second Language Acquisition

Mohammad Shahidul Islam

Anyone who has tried will agree that second language acquisition (SLA) is a complex and lengthy process. One of the most complicated and frustrating things is making the transition from the classroom to the practical world. In the classroom, students' mistakes are allowed, and the environment is controlled and safe. Outside the classroom is utterly a pole apart, and often students are lost as soon as they step outside the door. Lists of memorized vocabulary unexpectedly become futile when they go to a restaurant. Role-play or replication, one of the best methods of English trainers, can help students' transition into using English in practical situations. A replication is where students act out a real-life situation, for example checking into a hotel, but do not act out a different personality. Role-plays are where students take on different personalities. In a role-play, for example, one student may be asked to take on the role of "a customer who raises complaints".

Role-plays require more imagination by students and the trainer, and can be difficult to manage because they are less predictable. The initial scenario develops from the students interacting with each other and can literally go in any direction. This gives students practice in a non-threatening environment, and gives the motivation and involvement where they have to think in English. Role-plays are interesting, memorable and engaging, and students retain the material they have learned. In their assumed role, students drop their shyness and other personality and cultural inhibitions, making them one of the best tools available for teaching a second language.

A few ideas are given below for English Language Trainers:

the subject of Role-play should be explained clearly to students

a 'hot' topic and staging debate help students learn English. They will take part on the topic positioning “for and against”. This will get students out of their personality and into the role.

good preparation is the key to success. Students should be asked to sketch out their personal characteristics or scenario in art papers. They are to be divided in groups and given time to sketch out various scenarios. Trainer will assign them to go over extra or special vocabulary. He will ask them to discuss how they will act, think about the character and plan what they will say. For example, what are possible responses/replies for the customer who raises complaints?

the trainer, as facilitator of the role-play, must support students in their role, i.e. they 'are' in the backyard arguing over the fence. He should not do anything to interrupt their imagination. He must leave grammar correction for the end. Correcting students in the middle of an argument interrupts the imaginary environment. He can make notes and do a debriefing later.

hyperbole is good! Trainer should encourage students to amplify their actions, opinions and movements. Hyperbole helps students engross themselves in the role.

it is always better to stage a try-out first. Trainer should let students practice their role in small groups with coaching from the other students.

while the role-play or debate is in progress, trainer should have other students suggest vocabulary first, and act as backup if they do not know. Role-plays are unpredictable, which makes it both a valuable learning tool and at the same time difficult to manage. Trainer's plan of the various routes of the role-play may be chalked out from the initial situation. This will give the trainer some idea what to expect and avoid any surprises. Role-play is a cardinal method in teaching a language. Situational dialogues are very effective to motivate students.

The following topics may be taken for “Role-play”

Guide and tourist
?Customer and salesgirl
?Lover and beloved
?Man of the match and presenter
?Uncle and niece etc.


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