Designing an English Pronunciation syllabus for the first year non - Major students at Hanoi Commercial and Tourism College

We all know that, when we learn another language, the interference between the mother tongue and the second language is unavoidable. There are two kinds of interference. The first one is positive, and the second one is negative. In this part, we would mention negative interference, especially in mastering the sound system of a language that leads to the Vietnamese students’ common errors when they learn a foreign language in general and learn English in particular. According to Nunan “The problems of acquiring the phonology of a second language present formidable challenge to any theory of second language acquisition” (Nunan, 1991: 101). In order to design an appropriate pronunciation syllabus, we would like to make a contrastive analysis to find out the similarities and differences between two languages, especially to show here some major differences that may affect the English pronunciation learning process of Vietnamese students. The first difference is that English is multisyllabic language, whereas Vietnamese is basically monosyllabic one. For Vietnamese students, this causes problems in pronunciation difficulties such as word stress, breath control and derivative words. Now it is difficult for Vietnamese students to pronounce long, multisyllabic words, and joining syllables together is more difficult for them. Because they are used to pronouncing short, simple words in Vietnamese. In other words, English has stress-timed syllables, while Vietnamese has syllable-timed syllables. As a result, our students have to be acquainted with the concept of word stress, which is much different from the concept of tone in Vietnamese. Moreover, word stress in English has no orthographic indication, the only way to remember it is to learn by heart. Because of the monosyllabic nature of Vietnamese, our students are not familiar with weakened vowels, or unstressed syllables. That is, English has stress syllables which are spoken with more effort and energy, and unstressed syllables that are pronounced with less effort. This does not happen to Vietnamese, so the mistake that students of English often make is to produce all English syllables with an even tone. In addition to this, word stress movement in related words such as photograph, photography, photographic, photographer causes our students much difficulty. The second difference between English and Vietnamese is the linking sounds. In English, the role of consonants is very important when these consonants are placed at the end of the front word and the appearance of a vowel at the beginning of the next word. The consonant and the vowel are linked together. This does not exist in Vietnamese. Therefore, Vietnamese students often produce English words and syllables separately, and it is also very difficult for them to listen to native English speakers as many linking sounds may occur in a sentence. For example, when they say: We keep all animals  We keepallanimals, and I want a tub of butter  I wanta tubof butter.

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Chapter 3 Designing an English pronunciation syllabus 3.1 English and Vietnamese sound systems: A contrastive analysis on the common errors of Vietnamese learners studying English We all know that, when we learn another language, the interference between the mother tongue and the second language is unavoidable. There are two kinds of interference. The first one is positive, and the second one is negative. In this part, we would mention negative interference, especially in mastering the sound system of a language that leads to the Vietnamese students’ common errors when they learn a foreign language in general and learn English in particular. According to Nunan “The problems of acquiring the phonology of a second language present formidable challenge to any theory of second language acquisition” (Nunan, 1991: 101). In order to design an appropriate pronunciation syllabus, we would like to make a contrastive analysis to find out the similarities and differences between two languages, especially to show here some major differences that may affect the English pronunciation learning process of Vietnamese students. The first difference is that English is multisyllabic language, whereas Vietnamese is basically monosyllabic one. For Vietnamese students, this causes problems in pronunciation difficulties such as word stress, breath control and derivative words. Now it is difficult for Vietnamese students to pronounce long, multisyllabic words, and joining syllables together is more difficult for them. Because they are used to pronouncing short, simple words in Vietnamese. In other words, English has stress-timed syllables, while Vietnamese has syllable-timed syllables. As a result, our students have to be acquainted with the concept of word stress, which is much different from the concept of tone in Vietnamese. Moreover, word stress in English has no orthographic indication, the only way to remember it is to learn by heart. Because of the monosyllabic nature of Vietnamese, our students are not familiar with weakened vowels, or unstressed syllables. That is, English has stress syllables which are spoken with more effort and energy, and unstressed syllables that are pronounced with less effort. This does not happen to Vietnamese, so the mistake that students of English often make is to produce all English syllables with an even tone. In addition to this, word stress movement in related words such as photograph, photography, photographic, photographer causes our students much difficulty. The second difference between English and Vietnamese is the linking sounds. In English, the role of consonants is very important when these consonants are placed at the end of the front word and the appearance of a vowel at the beginning of the next word. The consonant and the vowel are linked together. This does not exist in Vietnamese. Therefore, Vietnamese students often produce English words and syllables separately, and it is also very difficult for them to listen to native English speakers as many linking sounds may occur in a sentence. For example, when they say: We keep all animals ® We keepallanimals, and I want a tub of butter ® I wanta tubof butter. The next problem is the prosodic phenomena in Vietnamese and English. That is, in Vietnamese, there are six tones: level, falling, rising, low-rising, broken, and dot. These tones are lexical. They change the meaning of words, just as, in English, changing one of the segmental phonemes (consonants and vowels) can change the meaning of words (eg: star # stir or start # smart). Let’s have a look at the following examples: Vietnamese English m¬ dream mê dim mí amount më open mì fat mî aunt And what about a larger unit of speech-suprasegmental unit-intonation. In Vietnamese, we do not pay much attention to intonation, because, according to Doan Thien Thuat (1997: 187), a tonal language often has a very limited intonation. It has, actually, intonation, but its role is vague. For example, to express questions, Vietnamese speakers often use particles like: µ; ¸; h¶; ­. Eg: A: TuÇn sau chóng ta sÏ ®i Lu©n §«n. B: TuÇn sau ¸? or A: C« Êy võa míi lÊy chång. B: ThËt µ? Whereas, in English, intonation plays a greater role. A statement can become a question if we change its intonation. Eg: A: When will we go to London? B: Next week (falling tone) C: Next week? (rising tone) The biggest difference between Vietnamese and English is in sound system. In Vietnamese, there are 23 consonants, 13 vowels and 3 diphthongs, while in English, the number of consonant phonemes is 24; vowels 20 (including 8 diphthongs). Especially, some consonants which do not exist in Vietnamese are: /dz/ as in knowledge; /θ/ as in think, three; /ð/ as in this, that. Moreover, English vowels are divided into 2 types: long and short (eg: seat and sit; school and book), this phenomenon does not occur in Vietnamese. Again, when an English vowel is placed in front of an end-word consonant, Vietnamese learners often omit the last consonant (eg: start; word). Of all above differences in sound system between two languages, students of English find it very difficult to pronounce English words correctly. In short, English and Vietnamese sound systems differentiate in both segmental and suprasegmental units. Therefore, a syllabus designer and a teacher of English should take all these differences into consideration in order to design an appropriate syllabus for their students and make learning and teaching process more effective. 3.2 The importance of teaching Pronunciation Pronunciation is as important as any other aspects of language like syntax and vocabulary. Speech is much more than pronunciation of course, but speech is impossible without it. Correct pronunciation, in fact, is considered to be a prerequisite to developing the speaking skill. That is why teaching pronunciation should occupy an important place in the study of any language. The importance of pronunciation takes on even greater significance when we see the connection between pronunciation and other aspects of language use. + Pronunciation and listening comprehension: In order to communicate effectively, someone needs to employ certain patterns of rhythm and intonation. Learning about pronunciation also develops’ abilities to comprehend spoken English. + Pronunciation and spelling: Learning about pronunciation may help learners with the spelling system of English. Beginners may expect to find a one-to-one correspondence between a sound and its spelling. However, the letter “a”, for example can be pronounced five different ways as in the following words: father /a:/; same/ei/; sad /æ/; call /ɔ:/; and about /ə/. + Pronunciation and grammar: Pronunciation can convey grammatical information. Consider the following sentence: a. I’m sorry. You can’t come with us. b. I’m sorry you can’t come with us. The differences between (a) and (b) can be seen in writing by noting the punctuation and capitalization, but how can it be shown in speech? What punctuation and capitalization do in writing, rhythm and intonation do in speech. In (a) a rise and fall in pitch on “sorry” followed by a pause perform the same function as a period. This tells the listener that “I am sorry” constitutes one idea. A rise and fall on “come” indicates that the next set of words constitutes a second idea. In (b) only one rise and fall on ‘come” indicates that there is one idea in this group of words, that is “I’m sorry that you can’t come with us”. These examples show how rhythm and intonation can perform grammatical functions. 3.3 The present situation of teaching and learning pronunciation at Hanoi Commercial and Tourism College The students at Hanoi Commercial and Tourism College are mainly trained to become receptionists or tourist guides. They learn many subjects during the course including basic English and English for specific purposes such as English for Front door staff or English for Tourism. But we have not used any materials mentioning directly how to pronounce English correctly and effectively. Of course, at schools these students had no chance to practise pronouncing English words and speaking skills as well. They were taught some English in order to pass the written examination at the end of the 12th form. And one more reason is that the classes at school are often big, consisting of about 45 to 50 pupils, this makes teaching pronunciation more difficult. Therefore, their knowledge of pronunciation is considered to be poor. According to my observation, our students are using Streamlines English - Departures - as a basic English material in which there is a little attention paid to pronunciation. Moreover, in some other materials such as English for Front door staff or English for Tourism, there are not any parts for teaching or learning pronunciation. During the lesson, the teacher may spent some time on helping his students with pronunciation problems, but he has to spent most of the time teaching important points. Some teachers may even ignore students’ pronunciation problems simply because of the pressure of time. Our college has provided some modern equipments for teachers of English such as a large lab, cassette recorders, etc. However, with the present syllabuses, these facilities are not used in the most effective way to better students’ pronunciation. For all reasons mentioned above, designing an English pronunciation syllabus is really an urgent task and it is suggested that teaching pronunciation should be conducted right in the first term of the first year of learning course. 3.4 Designing an actual syllabus (a 30 - period pronunciation syllabus) 3.4.1 Needs analysis It is important for a syllabus designer to notice that a language syllabus should be based on the common needs of students across various intakes, not of students’ needs across a certain intake. The former would make the syllabus valid and feasible. According to Nunan, “…Pedagogically, the most powerful argument in favour of needs-based course is a motivational one. The need to motivate students has become a cliche'. One way of improving motivation is to orientate content towards those areas that most interests learners and which are perceived by them as being most relevant, and to develop methodologies, which enhance the learner’s self concept rather than destroying it” (Nunan, 1985: 7). This argument highlights the role of needs analysis before designing a syllabus. The process of analyzing the learner’s needs will help a syllabus designer select the input which is relevant to them, and an appropriate content will make the learning and teaching process more effective. As for me, as English has become an international language, the learners of English in general, and the students at Hanoi Commercial and Tourism College in particular have positive feelings towards English and English learning. They are really interested in getting to know about English culture, native speakers, etc. These motivate students in learning English including its pronunciation. Further more, they are very motivated because of their future jobs as receptionists or tourist guides. They really need the teacher’s help in correcting their pronunciation mistakes. 3.4.2 Goals and objectives of the syllabus Nunan defines the term “goal” as the general purposes for which a language program is being taught or learnt. Learning and teaching goals may be derived from a number of sources, including task analysis, learner data, the length of the course and so on. These factors will determine what is feasible and appropriate as goals. Different language courses for different learners will have different goals. For example, for the learners who want to settle in English-speaking countries, intelligibility is the most sensible goal. Intelligibility is “being understood by a listener at a given time in a given situation” (Kenworthy, 1987:13). The students studying natural sciences at universities do not need native-like pronunciation as well. But native-like pronunciation is a goal for the students who will become air-stewards, receptionists or tourist guides as they use English to communicate with foreigners everyday. In other words, we can say that getting native-like pronunciation seems to be a ‘high” goal for students at our college. For them, an appropriate goal is getting accurate pronunciation. From all information above, we may set teaching goals of our pronunciation syllabus as follows: * To help students pronounce English accurately. * To help them apply this linguistic knowledge in their future jobs. With the above-mentioned teaching goals, the objectives of the syllabus are: * To help students pronounce accurately the sounds and words in connected speech. * To provide students with the characteristics of rhythm, stress and intonation in order to have ability to communicate naturally. 3.4.3 Variety of English selected as a model for the syllabus There are at present such varieties of English as Received Pronunciation (RP for short), Standard American, Standard Australian, Indian-English Pronunciation, etc. If the accent chosen for a general English course, “it does not matter very much, provided that the model chosen is a standard accent that is easily understood by other speakers of the language.”(Ur, 1996: 55). In his book - “Better English Pronunciation” - O’Connor also suggests that the most sensible thing to do in deciding what accent should serve as a model is to take the sort of English which you can hear most often. He states “if you have gramophone records of English speech based on, let us say, American pronunciation, make American your model”. As for me, RP is the most appropriate accent which should be chosen as the basis of the syllabus. First of all I would define what RP is, and then I would tell some reasons for choosing RP. According to O’Connor (1967), RP is the sort of English, which is used by educated native speakers in south-east England. RP “accepted” pronunciation, often used by middle - age generation. Linguists have referred to this variety as RP, Educated Southern English and Southern British Standard. It also popularly called the Oxford accent, or the BBC English. The first reason for choosing RP as a model of pronunciation is that RP is widely used and acceptable in many parts of the world. British dictionaries use RP. All British textbooks designed for teaching English as a second language use RP. We can name such many useful textbooks on pronunciation (and the tape recording involved) use RP available in Hanoi, Vietnam as Better English Pronunciation (J.D.O’Connor, Cambridge University Press); Pronunciation skills (Paul Tench, London); Ship or Sheep (Ann Baker, Cambridge University Press); English Phonetics and Phonology (Peter Roach, Cambridge University Press); etc. Another reason is that it will be easier for material writer to select materials for his book. It is a beneficial decision-making. As we mentioned above, radio and television use RP to broadcast, this will help our students have more chances to practise their pronunciation. So, the weight of argument in favour of RP seems to be great. 3.4.4 Selecting and Grading the content Phonetics and Phonology are greatly broad subjects which are described in many books. Within their boundaries, only very basic concept will be given. Based on such books as Teaching English pronunciation by Joanne Kenworthy (1987), An Introduction to the pronunciation of English by A.C.Gimson (1962), and English Phonetics and Phonology by Peter Roach (1983) we would give here some basic concepts of vowel, consonant, stress, strong form and weak form, linkage of sounds, elision, assimilation, rhythm, and intonation, before giving the idea of what to choose for the pronunciation syllabus. * Vowels: Vowels are the sounds in the production of which there is no obstruction to the flow of air as it passes from the larynx to the lips. There are 20 vowels and vowel glides. * Consonants: Consonants are the sounds, the articulation of which involves the obstruction or narrowing which produce a noise component. In English there are 24 consonants. * Stress: When an English word has more than one syllable (a polysyllabic word) one of these is made to stand out more than the others. This is done by saying that syllable slightly louder, holding the vowel a little longer, and pronouncing the consonant very clearly. These features combine to give that syllable prominence (or word stress). Giving less or more weight to a word in a sentence depending on the speakers when they make an utterance in order to high light it or not. This aspect of pronunciation is called sentence stress. * Strong form and weak form: What are meant by strong and weak? This is described partly in terms of stress, i.e.: strong syllables are stressed; and weak syllables are unstressed. In other words, when a word has a special pronunciation in unstressed position, this is known as its weak form. * Linkage of sounds: When English people speak, they generally do not pause between each word, but move smoothly from one word to the next, or they make the sound - linking. * Elision: The disappearance of sounds under certain circumstances is the nature of elision. Or elision is a phenomenon in which a phoneme maybe realized as zero, or hase zero realization. Elision is typical of rapid, casual speech. * Assimilation: Assimilation is a language phenomenon when sounds belonging to one word can cause changes in sounds belonging to neighboring words. Assimilation is something which varies in extent, according to speaking rate or style. As with elision, it can be found in rapid, casual speech. The cases that have most often been described are all assimilations affecting consonants. * Rhythm: Kenworthy (1987) defines that there are groups of syllables, just like bars of music, and within each group. There are strong and weaker beats. The strong beats are often on nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. The weak beats are fallen on preposition, articles and pronouns. * Intonation: Intonation appears when speech has melody. That means speakers can change the pitch of their voice as they speak, making it higher or lower in pitch. Speakers use pitch to send various messages. There are two basic types of intonation called rising and falling. But these two types can be put together in various combinations (rise-fall-rise; fall-rise-fall; etc). Selecting the content for the syllabus is a really difficult task. The syllabus designer has to select an interesting and relevant content within 30 periods. So he should choose the components of the pronunciation syllabus very carefully so that nothing important will be missed. Because of the time limitation, I think, what we should put into the syllabus are the following items: Sound system (Introduction and Classification of Vowels and Consonants; Strong and weak forms). Connected speech (Linkage of sounds; Elision; Assimilation; Rhythm). Stress and Intonation (Word and Sentence stress; Intonation in Statements, in Questions, in Commands, and in Exclamations). Grading the content is also as important as selecting the content. Ur (1996: 176) shows that “The items (components) are ordered, usually having components that are considered easier or more essential earlier, and more difficult and less important ones later”. Thus, the gradation of a 30-period pronunciation syllabus is arranged in 12 units as the following: No. Contents Time (period) Total Theory Practice Test 1 Introduction Introducing about the aims, the design of the book. 1 1 2 Chapter 1 Sound system 8 4 4 Unit 1: Introduction of Vowels and Consonants 2 1 1 * Introduction of Vowels. * Introduction of Consonants. * Practice. Unit 2: Classification of Vowels 2 1 1 * Classification

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