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Topic: Do You Skype?
Peter Travis celebrates the many opportunities that online communication offers.
This is adapted from an article that first appeared in the ETP (English Teaching Professional) in Issue 56.

Page 1: Skype as a communication tool
Page 2: Starting and using Skype
Page 3: Things to watch out for

Things to watch out for
As with simple telephone conversations, lack of body language or eye contact can cause communication to suffer, as turn-taking will often be awkward for those new to instant messaging. Your students can overcome this to an extent by making use of expressions to signpost they are handing over to their partner, such as What about you? What do you think? Have you? Do you? etc. In addition, students taking part in language exchanges with native speakers are likely to find themselves outside their comfort zone as unfamiliar accents and use of idiomatic language may make the conversation difficult. Students may benefit from developing coping strategies, such as how to ask for repetition or clarification.

One or two technical considerations include remembering to use headphones – otherwise the person at the other end will hear their voice coming back to them as well as your own. And it is worth spending time experimenting with how far away from your mouth the microphone needs to be. It it’s too far away, you’ll come across very faint; too close and there’ll be lots of ‘pops’ and distortion.

These issues aside, Skype and other instant messaging tools will offer you an exciting addition to your teaching repertoire, give your learners real-world speaking experiences, create opportunities to build confidence through fluency practice and, of course, offer a wonderful opportunity for cross-cultural understanding through exchanges. And if adopted widely at a managerial level by your institution, these tools can offer flexible solutions to classroom overload and even open up new markets. Give it a try and see what you think, and please let us know about your experiments with Skype at Splendid Speaking.

Peter Travis is the co-founder of Flo-Joe, a website for Cambridge Exam preparation. He also manages the Splendid Speaking website at www.splendid-speaking.com, which features podcasts of students participating in exam-style interviews.
info@splendid-speaking.com

Page 1: Skype as a communication tool
Page 2: Starting and using Skype
Page 3: Things to watch out for