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Oral languages assignments

OU foreign language modules have oral assignments as well as written ones. The tasks are very much like those for written assignments, but take the form of oral presentation, either recorded or live, to be performed within a certain time limit.

Languages sudent Mel, describes how she approaches a written French assignment

General tips

  • Find a happy balance between accuracy and fluency. Accuracy is the use of correct grammatical forms and vocabulary. Fluency is communicating spontaneously and with ease.
  • Check your fluency and accent and whether your words and phrases need to be adjusted.
  • Avoid using foreign proper names for places or people unless the listener will know who or what you are talking about. A mispronunciation could lead to a whole sentence becoming nonsensical. Instead stick to descriptive phrases, like 'a small town by the sea'.
  • Try recording and listening to yourself. It will help you memorise the important vocabulary and get an idea of the timing.

Your script

  • Put up or down arrows above some parts of a sentence to indicate where your voice should rise and fall - the intonation pattern.
  • Underline or highlight parts of words or phrases where the stress or emphasis falls.
    • in English - emphasis, pattern
    • in French - 'touristes', 'table

Prepare brief notes about what you want to say, glancing at them from time to time to refresh your memory. Try using mind maps or flow charts to guide you through the delivery of your presentation. Draw forward and backward arrows to indicate positive and negative statements, opinions or contrasts.

Recorded presentations

Make sure you practice recording your voice before the assessment to help you gain confidence. Your tutor will generally give you guidance and support by recording comments at the end of your work.

  • Try using an external microphone rather than the internal one on your recording device as it often gives a clearer sound.
  • Make sure that you have the time and a quiet place to record, with no-one listening.
  • Practise recording with different volumes to find out which works best and how far from the microphone you need to be.
  • Remember to state your name, course, your Personal Identification number and the time length of the presentation.
  • Always check afterwards that the whole of your presentation has been recorded properly.

Giving the presentation

  • Deliver what you have to say within the time limit - it is usually between one and six minutes, depending on the module.
  • Speak clearly, remembering that intonation and stress are important.
  • Speak in a natural way. Spoken language is structured quite differently from written work and, if you are reading from a written script, you should write in a way that suits your natural speech patterns.
  • Oral presentations can be more formal than everyday speech, so consider your audience and the subject.
  • Have some useful phrases ready, such as 'first of all', 'secondly', 'by contrast', 'to conclude'.

Listen to an experienced presenter and mentor of postgraduate students, Trevor, give his advice about what you should consider before, during and after giving a presentation.