Turn Taking - English Oral Skills Notes

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  • Being a cyclical process, turn taking starts with one person speaking, and continues as the speaker gives control to the next individual. This is then offered to another person and then back to the original speaker. Orderly conversation has to take place.
  • A turn is a crucial element within turn taking. Each person takes turn within the conversation – either in person or on phone.

Achieving Smooth Turn Taking

It is achieved with:

  1. Using specific polite phrases, for example, those for,
    • Interrupting
    • Accepting the turn when offered it
    • Keeping your turn
    • Getting other people speaking, etc.
  2. Using gestures to indicate you have completed what you are saying or that you want to say something. You drop your arm when you have completed and raise it when you want to say something.
  3. Varying the intonation to show you have or have not finished speaking.
  4. Use noises like ‘uming’ and ‘ahing’ while thinking so as not to lose your turn.

Turn Taking Cues

There are various ways of signaling a finished turn. They might be indicated when the current speaker:

  1. Asks a question, for example, ‘ Did you want to add anything?’
  2. Trails off (his/her voice becomes weaker to the extent you may not hear his words)
  3. Indicates they are done speaking with a closing statement, for example, ‘That’s all I wanted to say.’or ’I think I have made my point.
  4. Uses marker words (those that allow the other a chance to speak), for example, ‘well…’ or ‘so…’
  5. Drops the pitch or volume of their voice at the end of their utterance. This is the use of falling intonation.
  6. Uses gestures to signal that another can contribute.

Violations in Turn-Taking

  • There are five well known turn-taking violations in a conversation. They are: interruptions, overlaps, grabbing the floor, hogging the floor, and silence. Do you know what they really are? If you don’t, read the explanations for the violations in that order.
    1. Inhibiting the speaker from finishing their sentences during their turn.
    2. Talking at the same time as the current speaker. This is interruptive overlap. However, cooperative overlap is encouraged as it shows you are interested in the message.
    3. Interrupting and then taking over the turn before being offered it.
    4. Taking over the floor and ignoring other people’s attempt to take the floor.
    5. Remaining without saying anything for quite some time.

The List of Turn-Taking Phrases

To interrupt;

  • Before I forget, …
  • I don’t like to interrupt, but ….
  • I wouldn’t usually interrupt, but …
  • I’m afraid I have to stop you there.
  • I will let you finish in a minute/second/moment ….
  • May I interrupt?

To accept the turn when offered it;

  • Thanks. I won’t take long.
  • What I wanted to say was …

To stop other people from interrupting you during your turn use;

  • I have just one more point to make
  • I have nearly finished
  • Before you have your say …
  • I haven’t quite finished my point yet
  • I know you’re dying to jump in, but….

To offer the turn to another use;

  • …., right?
  • But that’s enough from me.
  • Can you give me your thoughts on …?
  • Does anyone want to say anything before I move on?
  • How about you?

To take the turn back after being interrupted;

  • As I was saying (before I was interrupted)
  • To get back on topic…
  • Carrying on from where we left on…
    Note: The list is endless, and you can come up with other appropriate phrases.
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