A: Hi! Can you help me? I am trying to write a dialogue between two people which I can record and use in a lesson.
B: Oh sure. What level is it for?
A: It is for A2.
B: Ok, so you need to keep the level down.
A: But I do not want it to sound too inauthentic. Often when you listen to audio recordings and dialogues in course books, they do not sound like real people.
B: Well one reason is because the aim of a dialogue might be to introduce a new language item and provides a model for the students to follow. So everything has to be clear. Especially for lower levels.
A: How do you mean?
B: Well we want to know where the conversation is taking place, like at a train station. And with audio, it’s better to have two or maybe three people speaking. More than that and it is difficult to follow.
A: OK, so I just want two people.
B: Great. And to make their voices different it is a good idea to have a man’s voice and a woman’s voice
A: [man]: Good idea.
B: [woman]: And you can also add characteristics which make their voices really different. So maybe they are different ages and have different accents. You need to write that down so your actors understand what they have to do.
A [man in his twenties with a French accent]: OK, I will do that.
B [woman in her fifties with a Mexican accent]: And do you want to give them names? That helps with authenticity and you can make use of the names in the listening questions.
Louis: You are right Gabriela. I had not thought of that.
Gabi: Please, call me Gabi. And also [slightly irritated] let’s start using contracted forms in this dialogue. It’ll sound much more real and gets students used to normal speech.
Louis: You’re right. And maybe add a few umms and errs in?
Gabi: Yes, you also need to write them in if you want the actors to add them. They won’t – err – add any fillers or features of real speech if it isn’t written down. [Pause] And remember to add directions to the actors in square brackets. For example if you want them to express a certain emotion or to stress a particular word.
Louis: Will do.
Gabi: I forgot to ask you, what is the language point of your dialogue?
Louis: It’s to ask someone for help and advice. So I started by asking you, ‘Can you help me?’
Gabi: Oh sure, I’d love to.
Louis: Yes, I was wondering if you could help me with something?
Gabi: Yes, I can. The only problem with this kind of dialogue is that the speakers might overuse certain functional phrases just in order to model the new language. So you’ve just asked me twice for help in two different ways and I’ve just said I can help in two different ways. One way round that is to have one or two examples in the dialogue and some more phrases on the page.
Louis: Or I was thinking of having three shorter separate dialogues with different contexts so I can model different phrases with the same function.
Gabi: Yes, that’d work. Shorter dialogues like that are good for lower levels as well.
Louis: One last thing. How long do you think it should be?
Gabi: You can go by the number of words. So a typical audio script at A2 level is often between 150 to 200 words in total. Or you can time the conversation and decide it needs to be about a minute long.
Louis: How do I know how long it takes?
Gabi: Try reading it aloud and timing yourself. It won’t be precise but you’ll get a rough idea. And also, reading your script aloud after you ‘ve written it is a great way to test it out and see if it sounds ok. Get a friend to help if necessary. You could even ask them to record it with you to use in your lesson.
Louis: Yes, I was going to record it on my phone. Do you mind helping me with that?
Louis: Why not?
Gabi: OK, press record.
Louis: [Pause and deep breath as he begins] Hi Gabi! Can you help me? I’m trying to…
Why not continue the dialogue in the comments below and add any more tips you have when it comes to writing audio scripts to use with your students?
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