How to cut ‘Teacher Talking Time’

Language training and communication skills

Edited by Anna Sobell


When it comes to business, communicative skills are priceless. Not only do they allow you to express yourself accurately, naturally and convincingly; they enable you to really tune in to what your clients, colleagues and prospects are saying and respond in the best possible way.

In order to become an adept communicator in a second language, it’s key that your language lessons replicate real-life communication as much as possible. Real-life communication isn’t a series of monologues followed by question and answer sessions, it’s much more balanced than that. So how can business language trainers ensure that their lessons are providing the learners with as much natural communication as possible. One easy way to implement this is for trainers to cut down on the dreaded ‘TTT’ AKA ‘Teacher Talking Time’!

Too much TTT

First, let’s take a look at why excessive TTT is ill-advised:

  • Limits STT (student talking time)
  • Leads to learners’ loss of concentration and reduced learning
  • Often means the trainer is giving the learners information they could find out for themselves i.e. grammar rules, vocabulary and correction
  • Slows the development of learners’ speaking skills and autonomy, they take little responsibility for their own learning

Techniques to cut TTT and get your learners talking!

  1. Time yourself

After class, calculate how much time you spent talking (you could use your smartphone to time yourself). If you filled up more than 20-30% of the lesson time, you need to make some adjustments. Think back to which points in your lesson you spoke the most. How much was repetition? How much was answering learner questions? How much was lecturing? Reflect on which points in your lesson could you have either cut out some of the speaking or replaced it with learner-centred activities?

  1. Add more detail to your lesson plans

For those with too much TTT, it’s important to plan more effectively. For every point you intend to cover in your lesson plan, you should have a talking time estimate. This will help you to keep track of your TTT. If your lesson is full of activities that require a lot of verbal instruction, you need to find alternatives; perhaps communicative or consolidation activities to allow your learners to really practise what you’ve been covering. Split those more involved activities up into multiple lessons or replace them with learner-centred activities.

  1. Ask more leading questions

Many a good language trainer has been thwarted by the repeated use of the question ‘understand?’. I have no hard and fast statistics for this, but most language learners will just answer ‘yes’ even if they don’t really fully understand; especially in a group situation. Instead of asking ‘understand?’ or ‘is that clear?’ etc. ask more leading questions, or concept checking questions (CCQs). For example:

What is another example of a ____?

What does a ____ do?

Is this in the past?

Is the action still happening?

What is the opposite of this word?

  1. Use more non-verbal cues

This is an easy way to cut down TTT – get into the habit of using gestures or other non-verbal cues. For example; tapping on the board, pointing behind you for past and in front for future etc. You can also use mime, facial expressions and drawing to really eek out the STT and curb the TTT.

  1. Ask for feedback

After evaluating our lessons and altering how you manage the class, you should be able to cut down on TTT. If you have a difficult time decreasing the TTT, ask for feedback from your learners – did they notice a change? This can sometimes be a daunting concept, but give it a go and you’ll find how useful it is. Feedback should be reciprocal, not always trainer to learner.

Not all TTT is bad TTT!

Before you start eliminating TTT altogether, stop! As we discussed earlier, language lessons should replicate real-life communication and therefore TTT is an essential element, just a couple of the reasons are below:

  • Natural conversation initiated by the trainer, which encourages questioning, asking for clarification, commenting and changing the subject
  • Introducing informal, colloquial, industry-specific language – often overlooked in course books

Here at Language Services Direct we ensure that all our trainers are providing learner-centred, communicative lessons. Get in touch today to see how we can help you and your organisation.

This article was orginally posted on our sister company, Simon & Simon’s, website.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy reading these pieces from our blog:

Business language learning – listening texts

Pronunciation & accent reduction – benefits

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