Image courtesy of egrodziak via Flickr (CC 2.0)
Imagine you are in a brand new city and need to get to a particular place. If you had no technology for help, you would be all at sea. Even so, you could still get directions the old-fashioned way via signposts – signs next to a road giving information about the direction and distance to a place.
Similarly, when language learners hear a lecture or an extended talk given by a native speaker, they may experience difficulty in fully understanding what’s being said. Unlike reading, where you can check content over and over again, listening generally gives you only one chance to make out what is being said. In such a situation, identifying signpost expressions can help improve comprehension.
So, what exactly are signpost expressions? Well, they are words that guide the listener through the various stages of a talk. In a way, signpost expressions help the listener predict what is going to be said next. As a result, the relationship between points becomes clearer, be it comparing, contrasting, adding information, or just sequencing.
Here are some common expressions used for signposting:
|Signpost expressions||What they indicate|
|Firstly||The beginning of a list of points|
|like, such as||Introduction of an example|
|while, whereas||Comparing two or more things|
|In other words, Put another way||Rephrasing what has been said|
|Moreover, What’s more||Introduction of additional information|
|However, This isn’t always the case though||Introduction of a contrast or an exception|
|As I said earlier||Reference to a point made earlier|
|Moving on||Introduction of a new point|
|Finally||The speaker is nearing the end of the talk / Introduction of the last point|
In language tests, candidates often need to listen to long monologues and answer questions. A good example of this is the IELTS Listening test, which has two monologues, including a university-style lecture.
Be sure to look out for signposting language in an exam situation, and you’ll have a very good chance of finding the right answers.
|Meaning||:||confused and not sure what to do|
|Example||:||I’m all at sea with this new syllabus. I mean, I am not familiar with many of these topics.|
|Meaning||:||longer than expected|
|Example||:||If you buy this TV right now, you also get an extended warranty.|
|over and over again|
|Example||:||Reihaan, your dad has told you over and over again not to play in the rain.|
|in a way|
|Meaning||:||to a certain extent|
|Example||:||In a way marrying Jake within weeks of meeting him was a big mistake.|
|Meaning||:||a long speech by someone during a conversation that stops others from saying anything|
|Example||:||Thomas went into a monologue about his trip to Sri Lanka last year.|