In this lesson I look at how to use linking words in speaking to improve your fluency and coherence. The general ideas are
you don’t need a great long list of linking words
you do need to think about how your ideas link together
you also need to think about what you want to say
The words below may seem simple, but take a look at the complete long-turn example below and you should see that they are enough. You don’t need complex linking language – and and but are good in speech!
How linking words work for coherence
The way they work is generally to join your ideas together to make a complete thought – what you want to communicate to the examiner
idea – linking word – idea – linking word – idea ⇒ complete thought
To do this your “ideas” must also be clear. This means that you need to be able to first express your ideas in sentences and parts of sentence and you add in linking words to show how the ideas fit together.
If your ideas are confused it doesn’t really matter how many linking words you use! This means a possible model is
speak – think – speak – think – speak
The thinking time needn’t be long! And the more you practise the more automatic it will become.
Some of the ways we can link ideas together
It helps to think about how you can link ideas and sentences together. You don’t need to be too “analytical” about this. You just need to ask yourself some of the questions in the headings below.
1. be clear about the topic/question – what was the question?
Sometimes you may use a phrase like the ones below. Sometimes you may not – this is one time we don’t always use a linking phrase. It depends on how you are speaking. The important thing is that the examiner knows what you are talking about. All you have to do is make sure that you are clear about what you want to say first. If you don’t know – the examiner won’t either!!!
I’m going to tell you about….
So you’re asking about..
The first thing I’m going to say is…
To answer your question, I’d say…
I think [and other opinion words]
2. connecting ideas generally – what did I just say?
This group of words may surprise you. The are in fact the most common linking words of all – pronouns. They are normally easy to use – just don’t forget to put them in. I’d add that “this” and “that” are particularly useful for linking ideas and sentences. The moment you use one, you almost automatically add a related idea.
3. adding ideas – what else can I say?
This is probably the most common form of link you’ll use when speaking. You say something and then you say something more. It’s the easy thing to do. All you have to do is ask yourself “what else?”
4. giving examples – can I think of an example?
This is another very common form of link. You say something and then you try and explain it with an example.
5. adding detail – what precisely do I mean?/when did it happen? etc
This is a related idea. You have said something and then you add in a little detail – very often this will just be saying when something happened
6. giving reasons – why?
This is a common link too. It is actually one of the harder links to make when you are speaking because you need to think more when you give a reason than when you give an example. It is almost always easier to explain something with an example than a reason.
7. saying something different – isn’t there something different I can say?
There are times of course when you say something and then you want to make a different point.
See how linking words can work in practice
This is an extremely coherent answer describing someone I know. Note
1. How almost very sentence begins with some linking word – even if it is only a pronoun
2. The linking words I use are simple ones – this is still (I hope!) a band 9.0 answer.
3. You can see sentences and paragraphs even though this is speech
4. I’m always clear about what I want to say
I’m going to tell you about one of my teachers who taught me in middle school. He was a great influence on me and someone I still admire and look up to – a real role model.
Barry – that’s his name – taught me Geography and Biology for about 2 years I guess. He was also my form teacher and so we saw lots of each other when I was at school. Like quite a few teachers he hadn’t been a teacher all of his life – in fact he’d had a successful career in the army before he took up teaching. That I think is what made him a little different from the rest of the staff – he had a lot of outside interests in life.
As I was saying he taught me at middle school when was I around 11 or 12. But our relationship went much further than that. He became something of a family friend and he still comes to visit us quite often and he’s even shared Christmas Day with us once or twice. So I suppose you could say we have known each other for over 20 years now – though naturally I see much less of him now that I have moved away from home.
He has lots of qualities. For example, he was a strong disciplinarian at school and insisted that everyone tidied their desk and was polite. But his greatest quality for me is his sense of humour and enthusiasm. When we used to have lessons with him he was able to make a class of small boys want to learn because he wouldn’t just tell us funny stories he would show how us how enjoyable studying nature could be – even though I had no real interest in the subject.
Why do I look up to him so much? Well, if I was a teacher I’d want to be just like him – someone who is able to make other people want to learn.