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Conversing: Role Play

Level: Intermediate

Skill: Conversing

Purpose: to practice what is typically said and done in a common social situation, such as buying things at a market, visiting someone in their home, ordering a meal at a restaurant. The goal is to become more prepared to participate in everyday social situations.

What to do:

Step 1. Observe the situation. Decide on the social situation you want to practice. Ideas for this should come out of your Participant Observation in the community. If possible, go with your LH and watch him or her take part in the situation. What are the different roles? Which one(s) do you need to play?

Step 2: Discover the Script. Discuss the situation with your  LH afterwards and try to discover what a typical “script” would be for this situation. Does that fit with what you observed? If possible, work with two LHs and have them simulate the situation for you.

Step 3: Record the Role-Play. Ask your LHs to act out the script while you record it. If you only have one LH available, ask him or her to play both parts in the script, and make a recording. Some LHs will have trouble doing this at first.  Let them try several times until they are happy with the recording.

Step 4: Reverse Role play. This step is optional, but it helps you to discover natural ways to play your part. Suppose you need to learn how to be the buyer at a market. If you ask your LH to play the buyer, while you play the seller, then you hear what the native speaker says and does as a buyer.

Step 5: Role-play. Now you play your own part in the dialogue exchange. You are the buyer and your LH is the seller.

Note: The goal isn’t really to memorize a dialogue, but to play a part. That is why this is an intermediate level activity. You should already be familiar with a lot of vocabulary to help you play your part. Of course, you will be learning new vocabulary, as well as a lot of cultural information by doing the role-play.


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