Dell Hymes Speaking Model For Advanced English Conversation
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In this lesson, you'll learn about the Dell Hymes Speaking model for advanced English Conversation practice. Learn about the S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G framework in the ethnography of communication, which will help improve your communicative competence in English.
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👀 Psst… by the way, if you want to become a Dell Hymes expert, then you should check out our Masterclass on this Communication Framework. We go over each of the eight components in-depth, with rich examples for each. You'll also get a blueprint for how to prevent miscommunications and how to more effectively communicate across cultures. Check out the Masterclass page to learn more. ✨ 


What’s up Advanced English learners, Mary Daphne here. If we’re meeting for the first time, welcome! This is the place to be to improve your fluency, confidence, and clarity in English communication.

Speaking of communication, sometimes it’s challenging to know how to speak in different social settings. For example, what to say and how to say it. Specifically, how formal or informal we should speak. The way we communicate depends on many different factors and is always context-dependent. 

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you the Dell Hymes SPEAKING framework to help you decide how to speak in any English communication situation. If you want more information about this SPEAKING model, then you are welcome to check out our Masterclass on Dell Hymes

Dell Hymes created the SPEAKING framework to show how the way we use language, meaning the way we communicate is largely dependent on the context in which we use the language. So to speak correctly, we need to know vocabulary and grammar but also cultural context. The SPEAKING model gives us the 8 components we need to understand to effectively communicate.

Ok, onto the SPEAKING model. Each of the letters stands for one characteristic of effective communication.

S is for Scene and Setting

Think about what location you are communicating in. Are you at work in which case your communication will be more formal. Are you with close friends at a coffee shop, in which case you’d be more casual in your communication. When we’re in more cozy settings, we might share stories and personal details. When we’re in public settings, we might be more reserved with what we say. As we discuss with great detail in our Dell Hymes Masterclass, settings can be both physical locations and virtual settings.

P is for Participants

Participants include you and the people that you are communicating with. It could be a group of people in a conference room, an audience you are addressing but it can also be people you’re telling a story to or a colleague you’re doing a zoom call with. So, it’s people you are addressing but also others who might hear what you are saying.

E is for Ends

Ends means the goal, purpose or outcome of the communication or conversation. Why are you talking? What is the point of having this conversation? Are you trying to convince someone of something and change their mind? Are you trying to get hired by a company? Are you trying to apologize to someone? Or are you telling a joke?

A is for Act Sequence

Act sequence is the order that the communication occurs. For example, when giving a speech, you’ll have a hook, opening, main points, and conclusion. If you’re running a meeting, you’ll have an opening sequence, then address different points from various departments, some interruptions from team members and closing remarks. We cover act sequence in great detail in our Dell Hymes Masterclass. When telling a story you have the story structure but also some collaborative interruption and questions from the listeners during the storytelling. Every communication situation unfolds differently because they all have their own act sequence. 

K is for Key

Key refers to the way something is being communicated. For example, it’s the nonverbal communication, gestures, tonality, and emotions that are evoked in this communication. Dell Hymes calls it the "tone, manner, or spirit" of the speech act (Hymes,1974). For example, you might address someone in a more serious manner if you are apologizing or you might be animated and enthusiastic when pitching a product to a potential customer. 

I is for Instrumentalities

This means the style you communicate and what language forms you use. By this we mean the level of formality you use in the conversation. There are 5 different types of registers according to Martin Joos. The frozen/static register, the formal register, the consultative register, the casual register, and the intimate register. If you'd like an in-depth look at the various registers, then don't miss out on our Dell Hymes Masterclass where we cover this in great detail.

N is for Norms

Norms are the social rules that govern the communication event. That means there are socially acceptable ways of acting and reacting in different situations. If someone is making a joke, we can laugh. If someone is trying to apologize, the mood is more serious. You get the idea. 

G is for Genre

Genre is the type of speech act or communication event. For example, you might tell someone a story to teach them an important lesson, or you might file a complaint, or you might make a promise to someone. 

So there you have the Dell Hymes SPEAKING model. It’s a great tool to understand how to approach any social situation and how to communicate. Think about the message, its purpose, who you are speaking to and where you are. This will help you tailor your message to your audience and communicate more effectively. 

One of my favorite aspects about the Dell Hymes SPEAKING model, is its versatility across cultures. If you want to learn how this is a cross-cultural and intercultural framework, then be sure to check out our Dell Hymes Masterclass to learn more.

See you in the next lesson where we'll continue advancing your English together. Until then, keep up the great work and I'll see you soon!


P.S. Don't forget to check out our Dell Hymes Speaking Model Framework Masterclass for more practice!



Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in Sociolinguistics: An Ethnographic Approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 53–62.

Joos, M. (1967). The five clocks. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World.


About the Author and the Explearning Academy:

Mary Daphne is an expert in communication, executive skills and professional development. She is the founder of the Explearning Academy, a platform dedicated to helping individuals enhance their social fluency, boost their careers, and elevate their social game. Through immersive group coaching programs like the Executive Communication Lab and self-guided journeys, participants gain the social superpowers and career catapults they've been searching for. If you're ready to take your negotiation skills to the next level and connect with like-minded individuals, visit and explore the various plans available. Join the Explearning Academy community and unlock your full potential.

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