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Communicating Effectively in Spoken English in Selected Social Contexts

1.0 Introduction Communication is one of the vital aspects in life. We communicate with the world, even from the time we were born. Starting from babbling, crying, gurgling, we change our forms of communication as we grew older. We then learn to use language to communicate in order to make sure that our message is conveyed. Communication therefore, is described as a process which begins when you have a message that you want to deliver to an audience. The communication is considered successful when your audiences receive the message, react to it and then give feedback or response to your message (as cited in English for Oral Communication, pg. 3). One of the way through which our message is conveyed is through the use of English language. English is considered as the most-spoken language, throughout the world. It is the international language through which many people, regardless of their race, nation and culture use in order to communicate with each other. English, in this sense, is used not only in education, but also for other purposes. For example, when we are dealing with the clients from foreign countries, we usually use English to communicate for business purposes. According to Crystal (1995), English is used as the native language by almost 377 million people and by almost 375 million of the world population as their second language. This shows to us how important is English to everyone as the language of communication. Even in Malaysia, English has become the second language and it is used widely by Malaysian regardless of their races, cultures or socioeconomic background. As being mentioned earlier, there are various ways to communicate. One of the ways is through oral communication where in this sense, information, emotion, thoughts and ideas are conveyed through spoken language. For instance, when we are angry and we tell our friends about the feelings, we use oral communication to express our emotion. Oral communication can be done in various forms including interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, small group communication, public communication, mass communication, corporate communication and intercultural communication where each form has its own characteristics and advantages.

Basically, oral communication involves two basic skills which are speaking as well as listening where both skills will contribute to the effectiveness of the oral communication done. It is most effective if the sender has good speaking skills while the receiver needs to have good listening skills. One can be a good speaker if he or she pays attention to certain attributes such as volume, pitch, intonation, tone, tempo, enunciation, and pronunciation. An oral communication can be successful if the speakers voice is heard clearly by the audience. That is to say, a speaker must be able to control his or her breath in order to speak with clear and comprehensible voice. A good oral communication can be produced if the speaker uses a pleasing pitch that is neither too high nor too low in his speech that will not offend the audience or listener. The use of correct intonation, tempo and tone will also lead to the effectiveness of the oral communication. A good speaker will also use correct enunciation and pronunciation in order to convey message clearly and accurately. An oral communication will also be effective the receiver listens actively to the message conveyed. Active listening will help to improve the communication skills and there are few guidelines on how active listening can be achieved. First, the receiver needs to focus on the message and think about what the speaker is saying. Second, the listener or audience needs to anticipate what the speaker wants to say by trying to organize the details of the message. Active listening can also be achieved if the audience can identify the main and the supporting points of the message and at the same time, if the distractions are minimised. The distractions may come from the listener himself such as daydream, from the environment or surroundings such as noise, and the condition of the room used, and also from the speaker as he or she may have certain accent that might be difficult to be understood. Based on the points explained above, we shall look on how to communicate effectively using the spoken English in selected social contexts. This paper shall include the theories of oral communication, interpersonal communication and the social contexts in which public communication occur.

2.0 Theories of Oral Communication Wood (2009) believes that communication is a systematic process in which people interact with and through symbols to create and interpret meaning (as cited in English for Oral Communication, pg. 4). In other words, we can say that communication takes place when a message; idea, thought, feeling, information is conveyed to a specific audience within a specific medium and it is only considered successful if the message is understood by the audiences. In this section, we shall look on how oral communication works where there are three models that can be used to explain the process; Linear Model, Interactive Model and Transactional Model. 2.1 Linear Model The Linear Model explains how people communicate with each other, in a simple way. It involves two party, the sender and the receiver where in this model, communication is believed to occur when the sender (speaker) conveys any information (message) to the receiver (listener) by any channel of information.. Laswell (1948) describes how communication occurs based on the given five questions; who said the message, what is the message, in what channel the message is conveyed, to whom the message is conveyed and with what effect. At the same time, Shannon and Weaver (1949) explain that there are elements that might distort the communication between both speaker and listener. This includes the noise and interferences from other party or sources that can affect the listeners understanding towards the message. For example, the listener may not be able to comprehend the message from the speaker if the surroundings are very noisy or the speakers voice is very low. When this situation occurs, the communication process is considered to be distorted and therefore, the message cannot be conveyed perfectly. 2.2 Interactive Model The Interactive Model of Communication argues that communication is not a linear process, but it is an interaction between two parties. In this sense, the sender (speaker) will send a piece of information (message) through certain communication channel to the other party (receiver). Once the receiver obtains the message, he or she

will send the feedback, verbally or non-verbally, in order to let the sender knows whether the message is transmitted and how he or she feels about the message. Compared to the linear model, both speaker and listener will take turn to speak and listen to each other in order to communicate the message well. It should be noted here that the communication between these parties is influenced by their field of experience, a term that is used to represent their knowledge, culture, social background etc where both sender and receiver will communicate better if they share the same field of experience. For example, if a teacher asks a question to a student and the student responds to the question by writing down the answers on a paper, it is said that the interactive communication is taking place. The teacher who is also the sender, will justify if the responses given by the student is appropriate and this will determine if the communication that occurs is successful.

2.3 Transactional Model The Transactional Model of Communication suggests that communication is a dynamic process that keeps changing over time and that makes it more complex, compared to both models discussed earlier. In this model, each party is considered as both speaker and listener where they can be simultaneously sending and receiving messages, without having to take turns. At the same time, they may send multiple messages through multiple channels at a time and this may lead to miscommunication among them. Each element in communication is interdependent and contributes to the effectiveness of the communication process. As communication is viewed as an ongoing process, these elements might change and thus, it might lead to the elements to change as well. For instance, if one person who starts the communication is replaced by another person, it may lead to the changes in the other partys behaviour or feedback and this may also lead to the changes in the atmosphere or situation during that time. As mentioned earlier, the process may involve the sending of more than one message. That is to say, there might be another subliminal message behind the actual message conveyed during the transactional process. For example, when a teacher is

telling a story to the students, he or she does not only convey the story but might as well transmit the moral value behind the story and this can be considered successful if the students are able to identify the values when they are responding to the teacher. What is said by the teacher during that time may influence the feedbacks sent by the students and this will also influence on the relationship between the teacher and the students over time. Elements such as social background, prior experience, attitudes, cultural beliefs and selfesteem may influence the responses given by any party during the process and that makes these elements interdependent.

3.0 Interpersonal Communication Floyd (2009) believes that interpersonal communication can be described as the process of receiving and sending messages between two or more individuals in certain means (pg. 21). And this can include all means of communication such as listening, persuading, asserting and etc. Interpersonal communication may involve one-on-one conversations between two person or, individuals interacting with many people within a community or society in various channels of communication such as face-to-face as well as computer-mediated channel such as videoconferencing, chat rooms, twitter and many more. For example, if we are talking to a friend while waiting for the bus, it is considered as face-to-face interpersonal communication. The form of interpersonal communication may differ, depending on the person whom we are communicating with (King, 2000). That is to say, we can be involved in personal or impersonal form of interpersonal communication depending on our level of closeness with the person we are dealing with at that particular time. We are considered to be involved in personal level of interpersonal communication of we are communicating with a family member or a close friend where in this situation, we tend to use different accent, style of speaking and voice tone, depending on the situations during that time. In addition to that, we may reveal certain information that can be classified as confidential and important to the person we are close with while communicating. For example, when we are discussing with our spouse, we may as well reveal our financial information that can be considered as secret at that time since we are comfortable with that person.

Other level of interpersonal communication will be impersonal. Impersonal level of communication involves individuals that are not close with each other or do not share any relationships. For example, when we are talking to a stranger we have just met in a shopping mall, we may treat him or her with different attitude, style of speaking and there is a gap between those parties as they do not share common background knowledge, cultural beliefs or experiences with each other. At the same time, we do not talk or reveal message that can be considered as confidential to this kind of person because we believe it will be harmful and inappropriate to do so. This is to say, the topics or messages chosen while communicating may differ, depending on our relationships with the person whom we talk and the appropriateness of the situation during that time. For example, when we are attending a funeral of a friend, we do not usually choose a topic related to work when we are conversing with the family during that time as it is considered as rude and inappropriate to do so. Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson (1997) suggest that there are few guidelines on how an interpersonal communication can be effective. First, we should know that people are not mind reader and therefore, we need to make sure that our message is simple, clear and easy to be understood while communicating. Second, when we are in the communication process, we must make sure that we pay attention to what is being conveyed or discussed in order to avoid miscommunication. At the same time, the language, intonation, and the style of speaking used must be appropriate so that the other party can perfectly understand our message. The last guideline will be the use of eye contact and other non-verbal methods such as facial expression and body gestures while communicating so that people will pay their attention what you are saying.

4.0 Small Group Communication Small group communication is an interpersonal communication that occurs in a group that usually consists of 3 to 15 individuals (Beebe, Steven & John, 2006). A small group may be a professional group, an educational group or a social group. This form of communication is usually formed on the basis on relationship needs ie; family bonding, companionship as well as the task-based needs ie; colleague, business team or educational group where the members who

belongs to that particular group will have a common bond or interest or goal that brings them together. According to Beebe, Steven and John (2006), a small group communication may or may not have a person who is selected as the leader who ensures that the communication occurs in an organized way and at the same time, able to reach its goal and aim. Each different member may have different roles in order to cater for the needs of the communication. For example, when four or five person are involved in a discussion related to work, each team member may be assigned with different responsibilities such as note-taker or time keeper during the discussion in order for it to run smoothly. Small group communication has its own advantages, compared to other types of communication. Let us consider this type of communication with regard to the task-based needs. Most companies and organisations are formed by the small teams or structures that are assigned with different roles or projects. This has been found to be more effective and productive than a single individual toiling away at a project. When you have three or four more people working on an issue, you have the advantage of having access to more ideas and solutions for the project, of having more checking safeguards against any flaws in the plan, and of being able to establish more network connections. At the same time, a small group communication that consists of less than 15 individuals in it is likely to be more organized and systematic compared to other types of communication involving more members and people. For instant, if 6 students form a small group discussion or work collaboratively towards a project, they may find the group as easier to manage and more systematic compared to working with 20 students as each member may have different attitude, ideas or beliefs that may lead to miscommunication and argument if each of the member does not try to tolerate with each other.

5.0 Public Communication (Public Speaking) Public communication, also known as public speaking, involves larger scale of people where in this type of communication, a speaker and an audience communicate with each other in the process. Zakahi (1988) describes public speaking as the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner with the intention to inform, influence, or entertain the listener or audience (pg. 159). He also suggests five basic elements in public speaking ie; who is saying, what is said, to whom it is said, using what medium and with what effects. A public speaking is usually organized to serve for different functions and purposes such as spreading information, motivating people, or storytelling. For example, when an educated person is invited to give a motivational talk to 120 students in a school, he or she can be considered to do the public speaking. The person who does the speaking is known as moderator or speaker. He or she should possess certain qualities or characteristics that can attract the audiences attention as well as ensure the message or information to be successfully delivered. First, he should be attractive, confident and well prepared when facing the audience. At the same time, the use of different tones, style of speaking and suitable language will help to make sure that the message is comprehensible for the audience. A good moderator should also be able to hypnotise and manipulate the listeners emotion and feeling during the speech so that the audience will buy the speech and understand the message. In addition to that, a good speaker should also have good sense of humor in order to keep the audience less stressful or intense. A public speaking will also be successful if the speaker does some research before he or she delivers the speech. For example, before the public speaking is done, the speaker analyses the audience and collect as much information as possible about the background of the audience so that he or she knows how to tackle the audience during the speech.

6.0 Conclusion As mentioned earlier, people communicate for different purposes and goals in different contexts. The use of listening and speaking skills are very vital, especially when it comes to oral communication. It should be noted here that the process of conveying messages is not a linear process but rather a complex process that many interdependent elements. However, in order for the communication to be effective, there are several guidelines that can be followed especially when it involves the action of speaking. First, we need to make sure that we pay attention to the message delivered in order to understand it better. We must also be precise and clear in delivering the message so that it can be perfectly conveyed. The use of suitable language, gestures, expressions and style of speaking is very important as it will help to sustain audiences attention towards us as the speaker. As we Malaysians are trained and instilled with different beliefs, cultures and customs, we need to make sure that those differences do not hinder us from communicating effectively within different social contexts. That is to say, before conveying a message or starting a conversation, we must equip ourselves with as much information about the audiences and the context in which the communication takes place so that we will not offence the audience or harm them, in any way or another. Choosing the right language and words is very important as it will make sure that the listener will understand the message as well as to avoid argument and miscommunication. This paper, therefore, is very useful as it deals with the issue involves in oral communication as well as provides the guidelines on how to communicate effectively in selected social context.

References: Beebe, J., Steven, A., & John, T. M. (2006). Communicating in Small Groups Principles and Practices (8 ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. (2000). Effective Public Communication. Retrieved on July 3rd, 2011 from the World Wide Web: Floyd, Kory. (2009). Interpersonal Communication: The Whole Story. New York: McGraw-Hill King, D. (2000). Four Principles of Interpersonal Communication. Retrieved on July 3rd, 2011 from the World Wide Web: Sivagnanachelvi, S., Chong, P. W., Chua, E. K., & Mohamad, N. (2011). OUMH1303: English for Oral Communication (11th ed.). Selangor: OUM. Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J., & Jackson, D. (1997). Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes. New York: Norton. Zakahi, W.(1988). Communication Education. West Virginia:Speech Communication Press.