Techniques for improving speaking skill to non - Major learners at intermediate level at FLC-HPU

It is undeniable that English has become a language for global communication. It is considered as the medium of communication in many different fields such as: science, technology, aviation, international sport, diplomacy, and so on. English is used as the working language of the Asian Trade group ASEAN and the official language of the European Bank (Wallraff). In fact, with the spread of globalization and the rapid expansion of informational and technologies, there has been an explosion in the demand for English worldwide. In Vietnam, in recent years, particularly after the Education Reform in 1975 the study of English has been gaining momentum firstly because it is an international language and secondly because it is also seen as a mean to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Vietnam and other countries. As a result, more and more people desire to know and master English with the hope of keeping up to date with the latest development in technology in the world. English is most widely taught not only at schools, universities but also at many foreign language centres in part-time classes. There are also English teaching programs available on radio and television. In Foreign Language Center, Haiphong University (FLC-HPU), the number of learners keeps increasing recently. Certainly, they come to the Center with the hope to have a good command of English to use it effectively and all the four language skills are all very important to them. Regarding speaking skill, most of the learners who took part in the survey conducted in the present study agree that speaking is always at the top of their demand for they need it to pass the oral examinations at university and to have an effective communication to get a job at a joint-venture company or a foreign company. Therefore, it is important for them to be able to speak English fluently. However, for a long time teaching speaking English at FLC-HPU was performed with a traditional teaching method – the grammar translation method, in which the form of the language, mainly grammatical and vocabulary items, is the focus of a lesson. Consequently, learners who were passive recipients became structure competent, but communicative incompetent, and they found it challenging while communicating with English speaking people. The remarkable changes in the teaching and learning English can be seen recently since communicative teaching method CLT was applied to satisfy the learners' needs, i.e. to master simultaneously four language skills especially speaking skill and their communicative ability. Being a teacher of English at FLC-HPU, the researcher is well aware of the importance of using such method to help their learners become the communicator of English. However, like many other teachers in FLC-HPU, the researcher has encountered a number of difficulties in helping her learners enhance their speaking skill especially in motivating reluctant learners who only speak when they are made. Reasons for this are various, including large classes, psychological or cultural differences, lack of ideas or language devices, such as grammatical structures or vocabulary etc. Whatever reasons they may be, it is the first target of the teachers to help their learners get out of the always silent moment in class, and thereby, improve their speaking skills.

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Part one: Introduction 1. Rationale of the Study It is undeniable that English has become a language for global communication. It is considered as the medium of communication in many different fields such as: science, technology, aviation, international sport, diplomacy, and so on. English is used as the working language of the Asian Trade group ASEAN and the official language of the European Bank (Wallraff). In fact, with the spread of globalization and the rapid expansion of informational and technologies, there has been an explosion in the demand for English worldwide. In Vietnam, in recent years, particularly after the Education Reform in 1975 the study of English has been gaining momentum firstly because it is an international language and secondly because it is also seen as a mean to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between Vietnam and other countries. As a result, more and more people desire to know and master English with the hope of keeping up to date with the latest development in technology in the world. English is most widely taught not only at schools, universities but also at many foreign language centres in part-time classes. There are also English teaching programs available on radio and television. In Foreign Language Center, Haiphong University (FLC-HPU), the number of learners keeps increasing recently. Certainly, they come to the Center with the hope to have a good command of English to use it effectively and all the four language skills are all very important to them. Regarding speaking skill, most of the learners who took part in the survey conducted in the present study agree that speaking is always at the top of their demand for they need it to pass the oral examinations at university and to have an effective communication to get a job at a joint-venture company or a foreign company. Therefore, it is important for them to be able to speak English fluently. However, for a long time teaching speaking English at FLC-HPU was performed with a traditional teaching method – the grammar translation method, in which the form of the language, mainly grammatical and vocabulary items, is the focus of a lesson. Consequently, learners who were passive recipients became structure competent, but communicative incompetent, and they found it challenging while communicating with English speaking people. The remarkable changes in the teaching and learning English can be seen recently since communicative teaching method CLT was applied to satisfy the learners' needs, i.e. to master simultaneously four language skills especially speaking skill and their communicative ability. Being a teacher of English at FLC-HPU, the researcher is well aware of the importance of using such method to help their learners become the communicator of English. However, like many other teachers in FLC-HPU, the researcher has encountered a number of difficulties in helping her learners enhance their speaking skill especially in motivating reluctant learners who only speak when they are made. Reasons for this are various, including large classes, psychological or cultural differences, lack of ideas or language devices, such as grammatical structures or vocabulary etc. Whatever reasons they may be, it is the first target of the teachers to help their learners get out of the always silent moment in class, and thereby, improve their speaking skills. In addition, this actually drives the researcher to her study thesis, namely “Techniques for improving speaking skill to non - major learners at intermediate level at FLC-HPU.” 2. Aims of the Study The study is aimed at: Investigating the current speaking teaching and learning situation at FLC-HPU. Identifying the factors making non- major intermediate level learners reluctant to speak in class. Making some suggestions for the teachers at FLC-HPU with the hope of helping them improve their speaking teaching. Suggesting some realistic and appropriate class teaching techniques with the hope that they can enhance their learners in speaking skill. 3. Scope of the Study. To improve speaking skill for learners of Intermediate (Intermediate Level) at FLC- HPU, the teachers can make use of various techniques and a number of things should be done. However, the researcher only intends to overview a brief of current situation of teaching and learning speaking at Intermediate classes at FLC – HPU and to identify the factors making the learners reluctant to speak and suggest some techniques to motivate them to speak more. This is also the limitation of the thesis. 4. Methods of the Study To realize the aims of the study, quantitative method was used. The data collected for the study came from two sources: The C–level learner–respondents and the teacher – respondents also at FLC – HPU. · The former is from 70 non-major intermediate learners at FLC-HPU (See the Appendix A) · The later is from 11 intermediate teachers at the same center (See the Appendix B) Survey questionnaires are used to collect information and evidence for the study. All comments, remarks, recommendations assumption and conclusion provided in the study based on the data analysis. 5. Design of the Study This minor thesis is composed of three parts. Part one, Introduction, presents the rationale, the aims, scope, methods and design of the study. The research questions are also mentioned in this part. Part two, Development, consists of three following chapters. Chapter one, Literature Review, presents the concepts relevant to the study, nature of language skills and the oral communication, nature of speaking skill, approaches to develop speaking skill, motivation and prior studies related to the thesis topic. Chapter two, namely “Design and analysis of the research”, presents an overview of the research site ,subject of the study, measurement instruments. Also in this chapter, presentation of statistical results is described. Chapter three, Recommendation, focuses on factors that make learners reluctant to speak in class and suggested techniques for motivating reluctant speaking learners at intermediate level at FLC – HPU. Part three, Conclusion addresses the key issues in the study, summarizing some shortcomings revealed during the process of completing this research paper. Part two: Development Chapter one: Literature Review In order to fulfill the study, relevant theoretical concepts are presented. In this chapter, first comes the definition and characteristics of communicative language teaching as the foundation of the study. After that, the nature of language skills, of the oral communication and nature of speaking skill, and development of teaching speaking skill are discussed. The concept and the importance of motivation in speaking lessons are also referred to. Finally, previous studies related to reluctant speaking learners are considered to help the researcher or readers have an overview on the success or failure of studies in teaching English speaking skill. 1. Communicative Language Teaching It is known that the history of language teaching has shown the change in methods, which have reflected recognition of changes in the sort of proficiency learners needs. What has changed in a second language teaching is not in the way we teach but in the aim of language teaching and learning (Le, 2004, 119) Teaching a second language used to be aimed at enabling learners to read and appreciate-class of literature. Therefore any teachers who were able to reach this aim were thought to be good teachers (Le, 2004). For a long time traditional methods-grammar translation and Audio-lingual were used to teach English that made learners become structure competent and communicative incompetent. It is undeniable that most learners of English nowadays desire to be able to communicate with others in the language they learn. Parallel with this change in the aims of learning English, methods of teaching had to be changed. For a long time, a number of language teaching methodologists have constantly looked for the most appropriate way to teach English effectively. As a result, some teaching methods came into being such as: · Grammar-translation method · The Direct method. · The Audio-lingual method. · The Audio-visual method. · Communicative Language Teaching. Mackey (1965) remarks that most methods, which have ever developed, still continue to exist in one form or another as each method has its advantages and disadvantage. For example grammar-translation is easy to implement and cheap to administer which makes it still be used in many classroom situations in large classes. Generally speaking, it is hard to say which method is the most effective and appropriate without considering the circumstances in which it is applied. The question of which method should be used in Vietnam depends most on the background of English language teaching and learning in the country, sources of materials, teachers’ proficiency, learners’ needs and facilities for teaching and learning. This minor thesis focuses on only CLT approach as it is considered the current dominant methodology and one of the most effective approaches to teach learners to speak in second language. Accordingly, CLT has become an “umbrella” term, which covers a wide range of classroom practices. 1.1. Definition of CLT So far, CLT has been viewed differently by different authors such as Wilkins (1972), Nunan (1989), etc.. However, most of definitions of CLT come under the weak version stressing the importance of opportunities to use English for communicate purposes, favoring interaction among small number of learners in order to maximize their talking time. (Larsen – Freeman, 2000: 80). CLT was defined by Nunan (1989; 194) as “CLT views language as a system for the expressions of meaning. Activities involve oral communication, carrying out meaning tasks and using language, which is meaningful to the learners. Objectives reflect the needs of the learner including functional skills as well as linguistic objectives. The learner’s role is as a negotiator and integrator. The teacher’s role is as a facilitator of the communication process.” It is thought that this definition contains aspects that are common to many other definitions. 1.2. Characteristics of CLT The communicative approach can be said to be the product of language educators and linguists who became dissatisfied with the Audio lingual and Grammar translation, which could not enable learners to communicate in the culture of the target language. CLT from British and American perspectives is aimed at: · making communicative competence the goal of language teaching · Developing procedures for teaching of the four language skills · Wilkins (1972) believes that people should learn a second language for performing different functions in life. Freeman.L (2000) adds that all tasks should be done with a communicative in tend. · CLT is also associated with learner-centered and experienced based tasks (Richard and Rodgers, 1986, L.Tsang , and Wong ,2000). · CLT is grounded on a theory of language as communication. The goal of CLT is to create a realistic context for language acquisition in the classroom to order communicative competence (Hymes, 1972). · The focus of CLT is therefore on functional language usage and learners’ ability to express their own ideas, feelings, attitudes desires and needs. In CLT, skill is more important than content. That means the focus of the lesson is fluency, not accuracy. Communicative lessons are characterized by activities where learners communicate and where tasks are completed by means of interaction with other learners. Therefore, learners completing a task is foreground and communicating with each other back-grounded.(Hymes,1972). And it is agreed that pair work, group work and mingling activities with the emphasis on completing the task successfully through communication with others. During these activities, the teacher’s role is to facilitate and then to monitor, usually, without interruption and then to provide feedback on the success. (Le,2004:84,85) However, to make CLT possible, especially where uncreative textbooks are used, teachers should consider how to change the weak version of CLT into a strong one. Communicative activities should be used with wisdom at the proper time to arouse learners’ interest. In other words, CLT has to be focused meaningful and fun (Yang, 2003). 2. Nature of Language Skills and the Oral Communication 2.1. Nature of Language Skills It is known that language communication involves some language skills, which consist of four macro inter-related skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). That is the reason why learners of English are required to have an adequate mastery of the four skills. Nevertheless, the degree of fluency of each skill, which is a learner requires, depends on their course purposes. As for Byrne (1991), listening and reading are considered to be receptive skills, whereas speaking and writing are productive skills. Speaking and listening are also called oral skills basing on the manners by which they are formed as they are related to articulator organs. The skills in connection with manual script including reading and writing are called literacy skills. Of the four skills, speaking plays an utmost important role since it is the step to: identify who knows or does not know a language. Pattison (1992) confirms that when a people speak of knowing or learning a language they mean being able to speak the language. 2.2. Oral Communication With regard to the relation between speaking and listening, Byrne (1991:9) proves that speaking and listening skills in communication are complementary. From a communicative, pragmatic view of the language classroom, listening and speaking skills are closely intertwined. The interaction between these two modes of performance applies especially strongly to conversation, the most popular discourse category in the profession. “Speaking always necessitates at least two participants: speakers(s) and listener(s). When the speaker starts the message, the listener decodes, and responds to the message in turns. Therefore, nature of oral communication is comprehended as a two - way process between the speaker and the listener. Oral communication is effective only when the learners are supplied with oral skills” (Byrne, 1991:9). Hence, that is why teaching listening is always associated with teaching speaking skill. Bygate, M (1991:22) divided oral skills into negotiation skills and production skills, in which the former are divided into interaction management and negotiation of meaning with two-sub-skills. - Agenda management refers to the right of participants, choice of the topics and how they are developed and of how much time the conversation should be prolonged. - Turn-taking (McCarthy; 1993; 127) means that the speaker has to discern (perceive clear when to take the floor and when to let at another speaker take turn). The later, production skills, states that the speakers are always overwhelmed by time pressure from the moment they decide what to say, how to state to the time they say it out. This excuse helps them protect themselves by using instrument so as to expedite production and compensate for difficulties. Production skills are divided into two sub-skills including: - Facilitation skill, as listed by Bygate (1991:15) is the use of simple structures, ellipsis, customary expressions and fillers or halting devices such as you know, you see, ok.... - Compensation skills comprise self, correction, false start, recitation and rephrasing. 3. Nature of Speaking Skill and Development of Teaching Speaking Skill As mentioned above speaking is thought to be the most vital skill of the four language skills. In order to find the techniques to improve speaking skill we must be aware of nature of this skill. 3.1. Nature of Speaking and Oral Interaction 3.1.1. Definition of Speaking (spoken language) In Brown and Yule’s opinions (1983) spoken language consists of short, fragmentary utterances, in a range of pronunciation. There is often a great deal of repetition and overlap between one speaker and another and speaker usually use non- specific references. They also point out that spoken language is made to feel less conceptually dense than other types of language such as prose by using the loosely organized syntax, and non - specific words and phrases and fillers such as ‘well’, “oh”, “uhuh”. Speaking is, however, a skill, which deserves attention as much as literary skills. Our learners often need to speak with confidence so as to carry out many of their most basic transactions. Moreover, speaking is known with two main types of conversation namely dialogue and monologue. Brown and Yule point out the ability to give uninterrupted oral presentation (monologue) is rather different from interacting with one or more other speakers for transactional and international purposes. And it is much more difficult to extemporize on a given subject to a group of listeners. It explains why speaking skill generally has to be learned and practiced carefully before giving a presentation. However as when we have conversations we work interactively. 3.1.2. The Characteristics of Speaking As for Bygate M (1987:12), in most speaking the person to whom we are speaking is in front of us and able to put us right if we make mistakes. He or she can also generally show agreement and understanding - or incomprehension and disagreement. Unlike readers or writers, speakers may need patience and imagination, too. While talking, speakers need to take notice of the other and allows listeners chance to speak it. It means that we take turns to speak. Brown (1983) and her colleagues point out that a listener helps speakers improve their performance as a speaker because being a listener gives learners models to utilize when acting as a speaker. In addition, being a hearer first helps the learner appreciate the difficulties inherent in the task. It is clear that giving speakers experience in hearer’s role is more helpful than simple practice in tasks in which a speaker is having real difficulties in appreciating what a particular task required. Bygate M (1987) suggests that conversations can be analyzed in terms of routines. Which are conventional (there for predictable) ways of presenting information. As far as we have known, there are two kinds of routines: “information routines” and “international routines” . Information routines frequently recur types information structures, including stories; descriptions of places and people; presentation of facts comparisons, instructions. Interaction routines are routines based not so much on sequences of kinds of terms occurring in typical kinds of interactions. These routines thus can be characterized in broad terms include the kinds of turns typically occurring in given situations, and the order in which the components are likely to occur. So telephone conversations, interview conversations, casual encounters conversations at parties, conversations around the table at a dinner party, lessons, radio or television interviews, all tend to be organized in characteristic ways (Bygate, 1987:24,25) By and large, the learner can be much more confident in speaking English with clear understanding and governing these skills. However, the oral skills are dependent on knowledge of language they learn such as grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. In addition, learners rely on common conventional expression for communicating specific meanings, particularly on the language environment. It is unedited that practice in classroom might not be similar to oral communication outside classroom. In the foreign language classroom, practice is rather simple and far from real life (By gate, 1987:12). For instance, content of communication topic
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