Teaching Speaking Skills to Japanese Students—Recent Advances in the Immediate Method

Bruno Vannieu
8 June, 2024 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm

In 2007, I presented the basic principles of the “Immediate Method” for the Kitakyushu chapter. This classroom management technique was developed from the ground up in the context of the Japanese university classroom. At that time, my co-authors and I were excited about the significant changes we were witnessing in our classes. Even large and rather unmotivated groups ceased passive resistance and started speaking out in class- in the target language. We had won! We benefited from simple yet radical choices: focusing each class on a single target (having students conduct conversations on topics of daily life), and regularly testing students during class time.

Over the years, we have refined and formalized our approach through articles and workshops. In 2018, Jerry Talandis presented for your chapter advancements he made in his book How to Test Speaking Skills in Japan. He discussed evaluating tests and class activities based on three criteria: validity, reliability, and practicality. Indeed, even if the mere fact of testing regularly is a kind of magic wand in itself, we need to think about how we can do it in the most efficient, fair and productive way.

In this presentation, I will discuss recent developments, including:

  • Introducing "on-the-fly" quick test formats to establish good habits early in the semester.
  • Nudging students to study before class and review after class.
  • In some cases, switching from real-time conversations to scripted conversations, which can have a surprisingly strong washback effect.

The presentation will be hands-on and interactive. It will be based on a "progress sheet" that participants can hopefully reuse in their own classes. Additionally, I will show how my co-authors and I have integrated these techniques into the latest edition of our textbook, Conversations in Class.

Bruno Vannieu has taught French at the university level in Japan for 25 years, including eleven years at Kobe University where he received the Best Teacher Award six times. He retired from teaching in 2019 to concentrate on teacher training and publishing. He is a co-author of many French and English textbooks and the author of Enseigner l'oral au Japon (Teaching Speaking Skills in Japan). His research is focused on intercultural communication and language teaching methods.