Language in use  
English Language & Linguistics

English Language


The Guided Interview

One useful way to analyse language in action is to conduct a guided interview.
This means the interviewer can plan ahead on what language features to look for and either elicit anticipated responses or record unexpected responses for later analysis.

This Guide was created to take advantage of some fluent Swedish teachers who were visiting the school. Despite their evident fluency, which enabled valuable discussion, all betrayed some non-fluency features, some of which suggested characteristics of their own language. The Guide was discussed at length with students. The aim of the guided interview was to determine what these characteristics were, to make some parallels with the Swedish language and to offer a framework within which the students could both be naturally interested but also analytical about language.

Of course the interest in Swedish can be replaced by almost any other tongue - though non-Indo-European languages will generate a different kind of result from those Romance and Germanic languages that have formed the basis of modern English.

1.  Ask general questions about Sweden and their visit.
While listening to the answers note down pronunciation and grammatical features of interest, not forgetting intonation.
•      how long have you been here ?
•      what is the aim of your visit?
•      where do you hope to visit during your stay?
•      have you visited England before?
•      if so, what interested you / what were your impressions?
•      what are the main differences you notice between Sweden and England?
•      what are your impresssions of this school?
•      how does this school compare with schools in Sweden?

2.  Ask your visitor to read the following short passage.
  Listen carefully to the pronunciation and grammatical features of interest, not forgetting intonation.

“Until the 1930’s Sweden was ethnically homogeneous; but following the Second World War there was a large influx of refugees. There are around a million people from non-Swedish backgrounds - about 10% of the population. There is an active bilingualism policy. Foreign children may have some educational instruction in their mother tongue, if their parents request it.”

Then read it yourself, asking your visitor to listen carefully.
Now discuss differences between your pronunciations and intonation patterns.
For your intonation when reading the passage and for your visitor’s, draw two graphs indicating the rise and fall of intonation for each sentence plus the place of main stress. Discuss together the differences and possible reasons for this.

3.  Ask your visitor what they believe are significant differences between the English and Swedish languages. Note down any examples.
Don’t just mention vocabulary, look at structure, word order, prepositions, inflexions, sounds etc.

4.  What does or has your visitor found difficult in learning English?
•      ask about pronunciations - which sounds are unusual, vocabulary - where words may be “false friends” or not clearly match up with their equivalents in the other language.
•      you might ask about the sound in the Swedish word “sjö” or the meaning of the word “lagom”. You might suggest that "th" as in "then" and as in "thin" cause problems, also the "v" as in "vegetable".
Note down all the examples you come across.

5.  Learn a Swedish sentence or a couple of useful short phrases. Ask your visitor to suggest the example, to contain, if possible, typical Swedish sounds and constructions.
What difficulties, if any, did you have?

6.  By now you should have collected quite a few notes on the Swedish language and next lesson I shall ask you to tell the class your findings under the following headings:
•      differences in pronunciation when a Swede speaks English
•      any grammatical features which seem non-standard
•      differences in intonation when a Swede speaks English
•      the significant differences between Swedish and English
•      in summary, what are the main characteristics of Swenglish?



 See also