Learning a different language is not easy. English is one of the most internationally used languages in the world. Many ESL students will notice how different the areas of learning language can be, especially in the level of difficulty. The areas of learning English can be divided into speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Among these different areas, spoken English and written English are often compared because of the great differences. Continue reading to learn how spoken English and written English are different and why it is important to learn how to do both of them.
Spoken English vs Written English
Although it depends on the learner, most ESL students consider spoken English more difficult. For example, South Korea has a very competitive education system and puts great emphasis on English language education. A lot of Korean students have a high level of vocabulary & grammar and great writing skills. It isn’t that surprising if you know that Koreans start learning English in elementary school. And if early, they even start learning English in kindergarten. In total, Korean students get at least 12 years of English language education before going to college. Yet, a lot of them still have difficulties when it comes to speaking English.
Why would that be? What is the difference between spoken English and written English that makes one more challenging than the other?
What is Spoken English
The features of spoken English:
- use of slang and colloquialism
- narrative form (based on event, action, and story)
What is Written English
The features of written English:
Difference Between Spoken and Written Language
Spoken English tends to be more simple and info al than written English. When you speak, you care less about punctuation, proper grammar, and perfect structure, which are all way more important in written English. But why is spoken English more difficult if it has less to care about than written English? It’s because when you speak English, there is more rhythm. You have to consider the speed of speaking and use body language to clearly communicate what you want to say. Also, when speaking and interacting with others, you also have to concentrate on other persons’ speed and gestures as well.
On the other hand, written English is more permanent. This also means that people can read it whenever they want to at any speed. Also, written English has to be more detailed. It’s usually idea-based and explains ideas. This is because when you are speaking with someone, you are likely to have a common understanding with the other person. So, when you speak, you don’t necessarily have to explain every single detail. However, written English can’t assume that the reader has the same background knowledge as the writer. In order to clearly communicate your idea through written English, the writing should be detailed and well organized.
Top English Speaking Activities
If you want to help your ESL student improve their English speaking skills, try these activities.
#1: Show and Tell
In a group or with a partner, this fun ESL speaking activity. Bring an item that is meaningful to you. If the object is too big, bring a picture. Photos will work fine as well. Explain what the object is and why it is meaningful to you. Your partner or group members have to ask follow-up questions to learn more about the item and your story related to the item.
It is great for all age-groups. If you wish, you can limit the item to a certain category like food, book, music, family, or friend.
#2: Me Too!
In order to do this activity, you should have a group of people. Sit in a circle and go around talking about a unique or unusual personal fact. Something like, “I like to watch horror movies every weekend.” Anybody who also likes to watch horror movies will put their hand up and say, “me too!” Go around and let everyone share one fact about themselves.
#3: Do you like to…?
This is a great activity to do as a class. Hand out 5 paper strips to each student. Everybody has to write 5 interesting facts about themselves. Collect the strips, mix them up, and randomly give out three strips to each student. Have your students stand up and go around the classroom to find the owner of the strip they have.
For example, if a student gets a paper strip that says, “I like playing soccer with friends”, a student will ask a classmate, “Do you like to play soccer with friends?”
If anyone finishes early and finds all three owners, give another paper strip.
Top English Writing Activities
If you want to do an ESL writing lesson, try out these activities with your students.
#1: Mixed Up Sentences
Give your students sentences with mixed up words. Students have to unscramble and reorder the words to make the sentence grammatically correct.
You can also do a similar activity with dialogues. Using a short conversation passage, mix up the order of sentences. Students have to guess the correct order of the sentences to make the dialogue logical. This is a great activity to develop sentence organization skills.
#2: Everday Writing Practice
Writing every day is the most effective way of improving your writing skills. Get a notebook and use it only for this purpose. Each day, students will have a different topic. Students will write for 5 minutes non-stop. It is important to put away their smartphones and dictionary. The point of this activity is to write as much as possible in a short time with the grammar and vocabulary they already know. The more they do it, the better they will get at it. When students really get good at it, they may increase the time to 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes.
#3: 3 Things
Pair up your students. They will think of three objects or animals for their partners. Every student has to write a short story with the three objects or animals that the partner chose for them. The length of the writing can be shorter or longer depending on the level of the students.
FAQs About Spoken English vs Written English
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about spoken English and written English.
What is spoken English?
Spoken English is the English language communicated through speaking. It basically means oral communication in the English language. People verbally express ideas and feelings to other people through spoken English.
What is written English?
Written English is the English language communicated through writing. It is a more conventional way of communication. Instead of talking, people type or write to explain their ideas and feelings.
What is the difference between written English and spoken English?
Spoken English is more informal and puts less emphasis on using perfect grammar or sentence structures. On the other hand, written English generally needs to be more detailed and organized.
Spoken English vs Written English: Join the Conversation
What are your thoughts on the difference between spoken English and written English? Which part of the language do you think is more difficult to improve for ESL students? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.