Some troublesome american english vowels faced by english majored students at can tho university a case in the south of vietnam

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CAN THO UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES ENGLISH DEPARTMENT ---- GRADUATION THESIS SOME TROUBLESOME AMERICAN ENGLISH VOWELS FACED BY ENGLISH MAJORED STUDENTS AT CAN THO UNIVERSITY A CASE IN THE SOUTH OF VIETNAM ADVISER STUDENT DAO MINH TRUNG, M.A HONG THI BAO TRAN CODE: 7106978 CLASS: NN1054A2 Can Tho - May, 2014 ---- ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First and foremost, I would love to thank my research supervisor, Mr. Dao Minh Trung, who gives me advice, assistance and enthusiasm in carrying out this study. I would love to give a very extraordinary thank to Ms. Bui Minh Chau, a very kind and friendly teacher. My thesis would not have been successful without their guidance and support. I would love to appreciate Mr. Richard Boehnke, who spends time helping me with my recording sheets. I would like to show my gratitude to the contribution of Mr. Dave Timmermans, who helps me a lot in analyzing the recording data. I would love to express my special appreciation and thanks to my anonymous friend, Sis, who gives me lots of valuable advice and recommendations. She is also my biggest encouragement and inspiration. An extremely special thank is for my family. No word can express how happy I am with every word of love that my Mom and Dad tell me. My parents are my greatest energy and motivation. Thanks for every calling and reminding they give. I will never forget their belief that they keep for me. They are the ones who forever love and trust me. They trust their daughter can do it – and now I did it thanks to them. I can never succeed without any of them. The very special thanks are for my two best friends Le Nhu Ngoc Phuong and Do Trieu Duy Anh. They are always by my sides and yell at me if I lose my feet for once. They encourage me to keep the spirit I have when I first start studying. Also, I would like to thanks all the teachers of the English Department, The School of Social Sciences and Humanities, who have taught, guided, and helped me during my study at Can Tho University. The last appreciation I would like to express is for my colleagues and friends who send me their concern and involvement in my research. Thank all of you for helping and encouraging me. i TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.............................................................................................. 1 TABLE OF CONTENTS..................................................................................................ii TABLE OF FIGURES ..................................................................................................... iv TÓM LƯỢT....................................................................................................................... v ABSTRACT ...................................................................................................................... vi Chapter One - INTRODUCTION ................................................................................... 1 1.1. Rationale. .................................................................................................................... 1 1.2. Research aims ............................................................................................................. 3 1.3. Hypothesis .................................................................................................................. 3 1.4. Research organization................................................................................................. 4 Chapter Two - LITURATURE REVIEW ...................................................................... 5 2.1. Definition of phonetics, pronunciation and mispronunciation ................................... 5 2.2. The role of phonetics and pronunciation .................................................................... 7 2.3. Definitions of vowels and consonants ........................................................................ 8 2.4. English vowels ............................................................................................................ 9 2.5. Vietnamese vowels ................................................................................................... 11 2.6. Differences between the English vowels and Vietnamese vowels ........................... 12 2.7. Vietnamese pronunciation problems in term of vowels. .......................................... 13 Chapter Three - RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ..................................................... 15 3.1. Research design ........................................................................................................ 15 3.2. Research questions ................................................................................................... 15 3.3. Participants ............................................................................................................... 16 ii 3.4. Instruments ............................................................................................................... 16 3.5. Tools ......................................................................................................................... 16 3.6. Procedures................................................................................................................. 17 3.7. Expected outcomes and significance of research findings ....................................... 18 Chapter Four - RESULTS ............................................................................................. 19 4.1. Result for questions (1)............................................................................................. 19 4.2. Result for question (2) .............................................................................................. 24 4.3. Result for question (3) .............................................................................................. 27 4.4. Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 28 Chapter Five - DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION, LIMITATION AND SUGGESTION ................................................................................................................ 29 5.1. Discussion ................................................................................................................. 29 5.2. Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 30 5.3. Implications .............................................................................................................. 30 5.4. Limitations ................................................................................................................ 31 5.5. Suggestions for further research ............................................................................... 31 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................ 33 APPENDICES ................................................................................................................. 37 APPENDIX A – QUESTIONNAIRE ............................................................................. 37 APPENDIX B – RECORDING PARTS ......................................................................... 42 APPENDIX C – SPSS DATA ......................................................................................... 44 APPENDIX D – EXCEL DATA..................................................................................... 47 iii TABLE OF FIGURES Figure 1: Location of vocal organs and possible places of articulation. ............................... 6 Figure 2. English vowels ..................................................................................................... 10 Figure 3. Vietnamese Vowels Chart ................................................................................... 11 Figure 4. The Vietnamese Vowels System ......................................................................... 12 Figure 5. The necessity of correct/ proper pronunciation in speaking English .................. 19 Figure 6. Self-studying pronunciation ................................................................................ 20 Figure 7. Recognition mistakes ........................................................................................... 21 Figure 8. Self-correction ..................................................................................................... 22 Figure 9. Sound system understanding ............................................................................... 23 Figure 10. Distinguishing similar vowels ........................................................................... 23 Figure 11. Vowels and consonants ..................................................................................... 23 Figure 12. Some common mispronounced vowels in reading isolated words.................... 25 Figure 13. Frequency of errors in reading words in sentences ........................................... 26 iv TÓM LƯỢT Hiện nay, nhiều sinh viên Anh Văn năm cuối tại Đại học Cần Thơ vẫn phạm nhiều lỗi trong khi phát âm. Dựa trên thực tế này, nghiên cứu được tiến hành. Mục đích của bài viết này là điều tra phát âm sai của sinh viên tiếng Anh tại Đại học Cần Thơ, tập trung vào các lỗi nguyên âm theo tiếng anh Mỹ. Đây là nghiên cứu phân tích định tính và định lượng với sự tham gia của 100 sinh viên từ khóa học 36 và 37. Sau khi khảo sát, kết quả cho thấy một khoảng cách đáng kể giữa sự tự nhận thức và thái độ trong việc học phát âm của sinh viên năm thứ ba và năm cuối. Nhìn chung, họ có nhận thức tốt nhưng thái độ học lại tiêu cực. Tương tự như vậy, có sự khác biệt đáng kể giữa năng lực và hiệu suất ngôn ngữ. Kiến thức về ngữ âm của sinh viên khá tốt nhưng khả năng vận dụng kiến thức còn nhiều hạn chế. Hy vọng nghiên cứu này sẽ giúp nhiều giáo viên tiếng Anh và học sinh hiểu rõ hơn về tình trạng hiện tại và xem xét việc giảng dạy và học tập phát âm hiệu quả. v ABSTRACT Currently, many English seniors at Can Tho University still make many mistakes in pronunciation. Based on this reality the research is conducted. The goal of this paper is investigating mispronunciation of English students at Can Tho University, focusing on American English vowels. The study is qualitative and quantitative analyzed with the participation of 100 students from courses 37 and 36. The results showed a significant gap between self-awareness and attitudes of learning pronunciations of the seniors and juniors. Generally, they have cognitive learning but negative attitudes in academic performing. Similarly, there are noticeable differences between language competence and performance. Students’ phonetics understanding is unsuspicious but their performance is not good. Hopefully this study will help English teachers and students to better understand the present state and consider teaching and learning pronunciation effectively. vi Chapter One INTRODUCTION This chapter describes (1) the rationale of the study, (2) the purposes of the research, (3) thesis hypotheses, and (4) the research organization. 1.1. Rationale. Communication is believed the biggest purpose of learning languages. Learning English is not an exception. English nowadays is more and more popular all over the world and becomes one of the commonly second languages in many countries. At present, in Vietnam, people come to English Centers to learn and experience English for both individual and professional needs. Many learners join in communication courses for different purposes but not all can really communicate well with foreigners after all, even with other second language learners. One of the reasons is because many English learners lack the background knowledge of pronunciation though it is a fundamental skill to develop besides other skills such as listening, speaking, reading and writing (Pham Viet Thang, 2013). Not all learners can really recognize the role of pronunciation in oral communication. Most English learners often pay more attention to their grammar and vocabulary and less to pronunciation (Yusuf Kurniawan, 2009). Western philologists and linguists have studied grammar and vocabulary much longer than pronunciation. “As the results, linguists and teachers less understood pronunciation than grammar and vocabulary” (Kelly, 1969). Actually, every skill plays its own role that learners cannot deny. Learning every language is a process that the learners should learn correctly all skills involved; without one, people still can use that language but not very effective. In English communication competence, without proper pronunciation, misunderstanding and unpleasant conversation may occur. According to Hinofitis and Baily (1980), pronunciation is one of the most crucial aspects of second language learning due to affecting communication competence of learners. Szynalski and Wójcik stated that pronunciation is the first 1 and most important factor that impresses the listeners during a conversation. Although learning good grammar and having rich vocabulary are very important, it becomes useless if speakers are unable to pronounce words properly. Judy B. Gilbert (2012) shared similar opinion about the role of pronunciation in communication. He mentioned in the book Clear Speech that “many of learners can read, write and understand American English well, but their pronunciation may interfere with clear and effective communication.” Pronunciation is important; however, learning pronunciation is not simple or easy for learners due to many different reasons, one of which can be the difference between the mother language and the second language. Firstly, the sound system of Vietnamese and English are not similar. There are many differences between pronouncing vowels and consonants; blending words; between stressed and unstressed; and intonation differences. Secondly, the English learners’ awareness and attitude in learning pronunciation can also be the reasons for having poor pronunciation among students. Thirdly, the difficulties in learning and teaching pronunciation can be one of many other factors. Youfu Wei, Zalun Yhoư (2002) stated that “Pronunciation is difficult, so very few people dare to touch it”. L2 instructors are often reluctant to teach pronunciation, although the crucial role pronunciation plays in oral communication (Burns, 2006). “Sometimes because they feel ill-equipped to determine what their students’ needs are, and how to address them” (MacDonald, 2002). According to McDonough (1995), almost English as a foreign language (EFL) students seem to be embarrassed and have many difficulties to find methods in order to enhance speaking and pronunciation skills. As a result, pronunciation is still a big challenge for many students although they have been studying English for a long time. At present, at Can Tho University, although pronouncing correctly is noticed by many English teachers and students, opportunity for learners to interact and improve this skill in class is limited. Thus, offering more pronunciation courses and 2 learning strategies should be concerned by the teachers and the administrators in order to achieve high quality output of English majored students. 1.2. Research aims The purpose of this study is to investigate some mispronunciation in vowels of English students at Can Tho University – a case in the South of Vietnam. At first, the research will mention the present problems of English students, specifically mispronunciation in vowels and underestimating the primary role of pronunciation. Secondly, it shows some of the reasons why those problems happen. Bad pronunciation might be affected by the mother tongue and the differences between the first language (L1) and the second language (L2) (Ellis, 2008, Flege, 1995, Flege. S. & MacKay, 2003). Thirdly, it might be the lack of self-discipline in learning, and the learning environment. And lastly, the study presents the values of self-study and the important of encouraging from the school by offering more pronunciation courses for students. 1.3. Hypothesis Based on researches of many different linguists mentioned above, there are factors related to pronunciation problems. At first, pronunciation affects speaking proficiency of English learners. Many L2 learners fail in communication due to poor pronunciation and lack of knowledge about English phonetics. Secondly, they also cited that the challenge for pronunciation competence and performance will be very hard for English students and might be one of the many biggest obstacles they encounter. Thirdly, many English majored students correctly pronounce isolated words but when in a context they can be their trouble. Finally, the attitude and awareness of some learners about the role of pronunciation can be the effects of their fluent communication. 3 1.4. Research organization There are totally five chapters in this study. Chapter One is about the pronunciation problems of English learners at Can Tho University, background information and reasons to support the study, purposes, hypothesis of the thesis, and research organization. Chapter Two provides definitions of terms used in the thesis. Chapter Three concentrates on research methodology. It consists of research design, research questions, participants, instrument, tools, recording procedure and expected outcomes and significance of research findings. Chapter Four presents the results of the study. Chapter Five is about the discussion, conclusion, implications, limitations and suggestions for further research. 4 Chapter Two LITURATURE REVIEW This chapter describes (1) definition of phonetics, pronunciation and mispronunciation; (2) role of phonetics and pronunciation; (3) definition of vowels and consonants; (4) English vowels sound; (5) Vietnamese vowels; and (6) differences between the English vowels and Vietnamese vowels. 2.1. Definition of phonetics, pronunciation and mispronunciation 2.1.1. Phonetics According to Peter N. Ladefoged (2013), phonetics is the study of speech sounds and their physiological production and acoustic qualities. It deals with the configurations of the vocal tract used to produce speech sounds (articulatory phonetics), the acoustic properties of speech sounds (acoustic phonetics), and the manner of combining sounds so as to make syllables, words, and sentences (linguistic phonetics). There are three main aspects to the study of speech sounds: - Articulatory phonetics is the study of how speech sounds are produced by the human vocal apparatus. Articulatory is the traditional method of describing speech sounds in terms of the movements of the vocal organs that produce them. The main structures that are important in the production of speech are the lungs and the respiratory system, together with the vocal organs shown in Figure 1. 5 Figure 1: Location of vocal organs and possible places of articulation. - Acoustic phonetics is the study of the sound waves made by the human vocal organs for communication. Acoustic is speech sounds consisting of small variations in air pressure that can be sensed by the ear. - Auditory phonetics is the study of how speech sounds are perceived by the ear, auditory nerve, and brain. 2.1.2. Pronunciation and mispronunciation Pronunciation is the result of producing the sound of speech including articulation, stress, and intonation. Pronunciation can also be simply understood as the way in which a word is pronounced. (Oxford Dictionary) The term mispronunciation refers to the inaccurate saying of a word or language. The manner of which the word is uttered is wrong. Mispronunciation can be because of various factors such as voice disorder, ethnic group and even level of education of a person. For example, the word heat can be mispronounced as /hit/ instead of /hi:t/. Different from good pronunciation, mispronunciation might cause misunderstanding and form unpleasant feeling for the listener. Mispronunciation also leads to unsuccessful communication. 6 2.2. The role of phonetics and pronunciation Hinifitis and Baily (1980) addressed that phonetics and pronunciation is usually the largest obstacles to overcome when trying to achieve fluency. Both play a very crucial role in successful communication. 2.2.1. The importance of phonetics Phonetics plays a very important role in improving adequate communication because phonetics helps English learners know how to pronounce syllables, letters, words, phrases or sentences correctly. Proper pronunciation helps English learners have more fluent speaking as well as improving their listening skill. Without knowledge about phonetics, learners will mispronounce, their listeners will misunderstand, and the exchange will not be effective. 2.2.2. The importance of pronunciation In language learning, pronunciation plays a crucial role in effective communication. J. Sethi, K. Sadarian& D.V. Jindal (2004) found that pronunciation affects fluent communication. According to Szynalski and Wojcik, pronunciation is the first and most impressive factor listeners notice during a conversation. Proper pronunciation can make speakers’ messages easily understood and create pleasant feeling for listeners. In contrast, consequences of poor pronunciation would be a tragedy, even if the speakers have intensive knowledge about grammar and vocabulary. Though the importance of vocabulary and grammar is irrefutable, pronunciation is one of the most facing elements that affects efficient communication in English. According to Celce-Murcia, Brinton & Goodwin (1996), successful communication cannot take place without correct pronunciation and mispronunciation may cause confusion beyond listeners’ comprehension. Among many positive opinions about the role of pronunciation, there were some other opposite arguments. Lin, Fan and Chen (1995) in China stated that 7 pronunciation is unimportant because many tests for students do not test their speaking and pronunciation abilities. The role of other skills such as reading, writing, vocabulary and grammar should become priority. In Mexico, Dalton (1997) and Kelly (1969) shared similar idea with Lin, Fan and Chen. They mentioned pronunciation as “the Cinderella of language teaching” since teaching pronunciation is one of the most complicated significant aspects of EFL / ESL teaching. 2.3. Definitions of vowels and consonants In English, there are 44 sounds with only 26 letters including 24 consonants and 20 vowels (David. D, 2005). In the course book “An Introduction Course to Language”, Qui. N. H (2009) mentioned that consonants are speech sounds produced by creating an obstruction in the mouth for the air flow from the lungs and mainly used as sounds which begin and end words. According to the manners of articulation, consonants may be of five groups: stops, fricatives, lateral, affricates, and glides. Vowels are speech sounds produced without obstructing the flow of air from the lungs so that the breath stream passes freely through the mouth. When describing a vowel, it is necessary to provide information about the four aspects of the articulation: namely tongue height, tongue advancement, lip rounding, and tenseness. Vowels may be divided into monophthongs, diphthongs, and triphthongs. Consonants as well as vowels play an important role in learning English phonetics and pronunciation. Consonants are important in informing words and it is also the biggest problem for most English learners to learn and make no mistake in pronouncing them. Vowels are also indispensable because they help us pronounce a word. In the English language, every syllable must have at least one vowel, or it would be unpronounceable. For example, LV is not only unpronounceable, but it also means absolutely nothing. However, if we add two vowel letters an O and an 8 E, then it becomes the English word LOVE - /lʌv/. Together, consonants and vowels are as the “basic building materials” we need to build the architecture of language (P. Ladefoged, S. F. Disner - 2012). 2.4. English vowels English pronunciation is very different from Vietnamese pronunciation. The number of letters and the sounds that are represented in the sound system are not the same in English and in Vietnamese. In English, all vowels together are called the vowel system. Vowels are divided into monophthongs, diphthongs, and triphthongs. A monophthong consists of only one vowel sound that does not change during its articulation; i.e., it starts and ends in the same quality, and the speech organs do not change their position during its pronunciation. Monophthongs are also called simple vowels, pure vowels, or stable vowels. A diphthong is a complex vowel sound that consists of two components. The first part of the diphthong is its main strong component (the nucleus); the second part is short and weak (the glide). A diphthong is always stressed on its first main component. A triphthong is a complex vowel sound that consists of three components. A triphthong is indivisible and forms only one syllable. Depending on the duration of the sounds, vowels are described as long or short. Long vowels are [i:], [a:], [o:], [u:], [ə:] (or [ər] in some books), and often [æ]. Short vowels are [i], [e], [u], [ə]. The length of one and the same vowel may change noticeably in different positions in the word. For example, vowels in stressed syllables sound longer than the same vowels in unstressed syllables. Vowels before voiced consonants, i.e. [m, n, ŋ, l, r, w, j], sound longer than the same vowels before voiceless consonants. 9 Figure 2. English vowels English vowels can be summarized as following: by Tomasz P. Szynalski (Retrieved from http://www.antimoon.com) i: long high/ close front spread vowel e.g: peace /pi:s/ i short high/ close front spread vowel e.g: happy /’hæpi/ e short mid front spread vowel e.g: pen /pen/ æ short low/ open front spread vowel e.g: hat /hæt/ u: long high/ close back rounded vowel e.g: two /tu:/ ʊ short high/close back rounded vowel e.g: look /lʊk/ ɔ: long mid back rounded vowel e.g: raw /rɔ:/ ɒ short low/open back rounded vowel e.g: cot /cɒt/ ɑ: long low/open back rounded vowel e.g: car /ca: / ɜ: long mid central neutral vowel e.g: further /ˈfɜː.ðər/ ə short mid central neutral vowel e.g: about /ə’baʊt/ ʌ short low/open central neutral vowel e.g: but /bʌt/ 10 American linguists list from 9 to 12 monophthongs in American English, generally 11 monophthongs: [a:], [æ], [i:], [i], [e], [o:], [o], [u:], [u], [ər], [ə]. As mentioned above, vowels are difficult to teach and learn because English has several spelling variants for each vowel sound, which means that the same vowel sound is represented by different letters and letter combinations in spelling. For example, all these words have the same vowel sound [i]: he, hit, see, sea, team, glimpse. At the same time, one and the same vowel letter or letter combination can represent different vowels. For example, the letter combination "ou" represents the sound [u:] in "group", [o:] in "court, four", and the neutral sound [ʌ] in "trouble, tough". 2.5. Vietnamese vowels Figure 3. Common Vietnamese Vowels Chart (13 single vowels in Vietnamese: /i, e, ε, ɤ, ɤˇ, a, ɯ, ă, u, o, ɔ, ɔˇ, εˇ/, and 3 diphthongs /ie, ɯɤ, uo/) In Figure 3, Vietnamese has 13 single vowels including 10 long vowels /i, e, ɛ, a, ă, ɔ, o, ɤ, u, ɯ/ and 3 short vowels /ɛ/ (anh ách), /ɔ/ (ong óc), /ɤ/ (tân, thân)/ (Đoàn Thiện Thuật, 1977). In Vietnamese, there are 16 vowels (13 vowels, 3 diphthongs and 2 semivowels). There are totally 17 ways to pronounce these 16 vowels with 20 letters. The 20 letters are formed by 12 words. 11 Figure 4. The Vietnamese Vowels System 2.6. Differences between the American English vowels and Vietnamese vowels English has more short vowels and fewer long vowels than Vietnamese. And the total number of vowels, including pure vowels monophthongs, diphthongs and triphthongs in English is far more than those in Vietnamese: English has 24 vowels while Vietnamese has only sixteen. 12 There are some other similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese sounds. Both Vietnamese and English share three single vowels: / i / as in “hit”, /e/ as in “edge” and / ʊ / as in “should.” Some sounds in English and Vietnamese sound nearly the same so sometimes students make mistakes in pronouncing them. In English, when the sound /a:/ is pronounced, it is more rounded and lower and longer and more backwards than the sound /a/ in Vietnamese. Both Vietnamese /e/ and English /e/ are the front vowels. The sound /e/ in Vietnamese is the high vowel while the sound /e/ in English is the mid vowel. But the sound /e/ in English is pronounced more forward. Students may also pronounce incorrectly the sound / ɔ/ in Vietnamese and / ɒ/ in English because they are slightly different when they are pronounced. The sound / ɔ/ in Vietnamese is a mid -rounded vowel while the sound /ɒ/ in English is a low rounded vowel. However, the sound / ɒ/ is pronounced more roundly and more backward than the sound / ɔ/. The sound /u/ in Vietnamese is less rounded and pronounced less backwards than the sound / ʊ / in English. Some students do not know this difference so they pronounce the sound / ʊ / in English like /u/ in Vietnamese. Lastly, the sound / i / in English and Vietnamese look similar. Although they are familiar in form, the sound / i / in English is shorter, close front than the sound / i / in Vietnamese. In short, English and Vietnamese share similar vowels; however, there are qualitative differences in pronouncing them. From those mentioned above, it can be seen that due to influence of the mother tongue, some English vowels are mispronounced that lead to misunderstanding when communicating in English. 2.7. Vietnamese pronunciation problems in term of vowels. Because of differences between English and Vietnamese vowel system and the interference of the native language, Vietnamese learners often have a lot of troubles in recognizing and producing the English vowels. 13
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