Teaching pronunciation of English consonants by using contrasting and substituting techniques

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ------------------- NGUYỄN VĂN TÂN TEACHING PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH CONSONANTS BY USING CONTRASTING AND SUBSTITUTING TECHNIQUES (Dạy phát âm các phụ âm tiếng Anh bằng việc sử dụng kỹ thuật đối chiếu và thay thế) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 Hanoi, 2015 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ------------------- NGUYỄN VĂN TÂN TEACHING PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH CONSONANTS BY USING CONTRASTING AND SUBSTITUTING TECHNIQUES (Dạy phát âm các phụ âm tiếng Anh bằng việc sử dụng kỹ thuật đối chiếu và thay thế) M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS Field: English Teaching Methodology Code: 60140111 Supervisor: Dr. NGUYỄN HUY KỶ Hanoi, 2015 DECLARATION I declare that my thesis entitled TEACHING PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH CONSONANTS BY USING CONTRASTING AND SUBSTITUTING TECHNIQUES is the result of my own research of the degree of Master of Arts at the University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi and this thesis fulfills with the requirements of the degree Master of Arts and has not been published anywhere. Nguyễn Văn Tân 2015 Supervisor’s signature Dr. NGUYỄN HUY KỶ i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Nguyễn Huy Kỷ, my supervisor, for his patient guidance, and useful critiques of this research work. I would also like to thank Dr. Nguyễn Thành Long, and Dr. Hoàng Thị Ngọc Điểm for their advice and encouragement. My grateful thanks are also extended to Mr. Bill McDonald for his great help in collecting data. I would also like to extend my thanks to the students of School of Foreign Languages, Thai Nguyen University for participating in the study. Finally, I wish to thank my parents and my family for their support and encouragement throughout my study. ii ABSTRACT This study aims at testing how some teaching techniques used in the teaching of English consonant pronunciation at the School of Foreign Languages, Thai Nguyen University. There are two groups of students participating in the study. The second group has access to the teaching techniques while they are learning the pronunciation of the target consonant sounds. A test is organized for the two groups after the teaching intervening step has finished. This test tells how the students in the two groups pronounce the target consonant sounds. The study finds out whether the application of the techniques can improve the students’ pronunciation. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS DECLARATION ........................................................................................... i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................... ii ABSTRACT ................................................................................................. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ............................................................................ iv LIST OF CHARTS...................................................................................... vi LIST OF TABLES ..................................................................................... vii PART 1: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................ 1 1. Background to the study ...................................................................... 1 2. Objectives of the study ......................................................................... 2 3. Research question ................................................................................. 2 4. Scope of the study: ................................................................................ 3 5. Methodology ......................................................................................... 3 6. Significance of the study....................................................................... 3 7. Organization of the study ..................................................................... 4 PART 2: DEVELOPMENT ......................................................................... 5 CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW .................................................... 5 1.1. Brief overview of Vietnamese and English consonant sounds ....... 5 1.1.1. Vietnamese consonant sounds ................................................... 5 1.1.2. English consonant sounds .......................................................... 6 1.1.3. Brief comparison between Vietnamese consonant sounds and English ones .......................................................................................... 7 1.2. Review of some pronunciation teaching methods .......................... 8 iv 1.3. Introduction of the contrasting and substituting techniques ....... 11 CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY............................................................. 16 2.1. Participants ...................................................................................... 16 2.2. Data collection instruments............................................................. 17 2.3. Procedures of data collection .......................................................... 17 2.3.1. The placement test .................................................................... 17 2.3.2. The intervention ........................................................................ 18 2.3.3. The evaluation test .................................................................... 24 2.4. Procedure of data analysis .............................................................. 25 CHAPTER 3: RESULTS AND FINDINGS.............................................. 26 3.1. Results of the placement test ........................................................... 26 3.2. Discussion of the placement test findings ....................................... 28 3.3. Results of the evaluation test ........................................................... 31 3.4. Discussion of the results of the evaluation test ............................... 34 PART 3: CONCLUSIONS......................................................................... 39 1. Recapitulation of major findings ....................................................... 39 2. Concluding remarks.......................................................................... 40 3. Limitations of the study ..................................................................... 41 REFERENCES ........................................................................................... 43 APPENDIX .................................................................................................... I v LIST OF CHARTS Diagram 1: Pronunciation errors from the results of the placement test Diagram 2: Pronunciation errors in group A in percentage Diagram 3: Pronunciation errors in group B in percentage Diagram 4: Pronunciation errors in the two groups in percentage vi LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Vietnamese consonant sounds Table 2: English consonant sounds Table 3: Number of errors made by the students in group A Table 4: Number of errors made by the students in group B Table 5: Number of pronunciation errors made by the students in the two groups vii PART 1: INTRODUCTION 1. Background to the study Learning English has been a real need in Vietnam for more than two decades. English is a compulsory foreign language subject at most levels of schools in the country. Most of the aspects of the language are taught but not equally emphasized. Pronunciation seems to receive less consideration in English teaching at secondary schools as well as at high schools than grammar and vocabulary. As a result, the teaching of pronunciation sometimes does not reach its goal. This study is carried out based on some inspiration found when the researcher taught pronunciation to first year students at Thai Nguyen University. Pronunciation plays an important role in learning a language. People learn a language for many reasons, but the ultimate goal is to communicate and verbal communication is the most important form. A clear pronunciation helps speakers understand one another better with less effort as well as avoid undesirable misunderstanding. So, pronunciation acts as a communicational catalyst. It is also a motivation for the learner to improve himself in mastering the language when he receives positive feedback from the listener. As a teacher teaching pronunciation to first year students, the researcher has experienced a variety of pronunciation errors made by students. These mistakes do not only form a foreign accent when the students are speaking English, but it also makes them misunderstood sometimes. Recognizing the problem, the researcher decided to venture to use some Vietnamese consonant sounds to contrast to the target English consonant sounds which are being taught. Vietnamese language can be a good support 1 for teachers in pronunciation teaching because Vietnamese and English consonant sound systems share some similarities and many distinctive differences. For example, both Vietnamese and English have the alveolar voiceless plosive /t/, but there are some slight differences in the place of articulation as well as the quality of aspiration of the two sounds is not the same. It may be a good idea in teaching pronunciation if the teacher can make use of the similarities and differences of the two consonant sound systems to help learners differentiate the sounds and master the pronunciation of the foreign sound. Teachers of pronunciation, as observed, mainly depend on ready-made materials in text books and neglect some useful factors from the native language. This study was carried out to evaluate how some teaching techniques which use Vietnamese consonant sounds in teaching English sounds affect students’ pronunciation. 2. Objectives of the study The objectives of this study are to find out the most frequently mispronounced consonant sounds, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the contrasting and substituting techniques in improving students’ pronunciation of consonant sounds. 3. Research question In order to reach the objective, this study was set up to answer the following question: To what extent do the contrasting and substituting techniques help learners improve their pronunciation of consonant sounds? 2 4. Scope of the study: The study was set up at the School of Foreign Languages – Thai Nguyen University. It focuses on applying some techniques in teaching pronunciation of some English consonants which are normally problematic to first year students studying at the school. It was carried out with the participation of first year students at the school. The consonant sounds which are used in this study are limited. The English consonant sound system consists of 24 consonant sounds, so it is very difficult to include all those sounds in this research. Therefore, the researcher only focuses on teaching the most frequently mispronounced consonant sounds made by the students at the school. There are six consonant sounds included in this study. 5. Methodology This study employs the quasi-experimental design. The participants are chosen randomly. Tests are assigned before and after the intervention. The data are collected for analysis. 6. Significance of the study The significance of this study is in the use of Vietnamese consonant sounds as a supporting tool in teaching some English consonant sounds. In this study, some English and Vietnamese consonant sounds are contrasted and substituted to help the participants (students) really get the essence of the English sounds. Therefore they can have a better pronunciation of the English target sounds as well as avoid the negative transfer from the native language to the second language. 3 7. Organization of the study This study consists of three main parts. Part 1 is the introduction. This part provides the overview of the study Part 2 is the development. This part consist of 3 chapters Chapter 1 is the literature review. It provides an overview of pronunciation teaching as well as previous related studies. It also presents the author’s framework. Chapter 2 deals with methodology. It restates the research questions and describes the applied techniques, participants, data collection instrument, data collection procedure, and data analysis. Chapter 3 discusses the results and findings. Major research findings and discussion are presented in details in this chapter. Part 3 is the conclusion; this part presents conclusions and implications of the study. 4 PART 2: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW In this chapter, some significant methods and approaches in pronunciation teaching are presented. Also, there is a brief overview and comparison of English and Vietnamese consonant sounds. Besides, the research framework is also introduced. 1.1. Brief overview of Vietnamese and English consonant sounds 1.1.1. Vietnamese consonant sounds According to Đoàn Thiện Thuật (1999), Vietnamese language has 22 initial consonant sounds and 6 final consonant sounds. These sounds are categorized in the following chart: Place of articulation Tongue tip Labial Tongue Manner of articulation straight twisted Uvular Glottal c k ʔ ɲ ŋ blade (retroflex) voiceless aspirated Stops t’ voiced voiceless unaspirated Fricatives voiced t ʈ b d nasal m n voiceless f s ʂ χ v z ʐ ɣ voiced l Table 1: Vietnamese consonant sounds (Extracted from Đoàn (1999: 153) 5 h All these 22 consonant sounds can be in the syllable initial position. Six of them which can appear in the syllable final position are /m/, /n/, / ŋ/, /p/, /t/, /k/. It is necessary to note that present Vietnamese language does not have any consonant cluster like /pl/, /st/, or /kl/. This makes it difficult for Vietnamese learners when studying a foreign language such as English. 1.1.2. English consonant sounds According to Roach, the classification of English consonant sounds are given in the following chart (Roach, 2000) Place of articulation Bilabial Labio- Dental Alveolar Plato- Palatal Velar Glottal alveolar dental Manner of articulation Plosive p Fricative b t d f v θ ð s z Affricate Nasal h ʃ ʒ ʧ ʤ m n Lateral Approximant k ɡ ŋ l w r Table 2: English consonant sounds 6 j English consonant phonemes are characterized by three major characteristics, namely voicing, place of articulation, and manner of articulation. There are two more consonant sounds which are not listed in the table, which are the glottal plosive and the alveolar flap. Both of the sounds are used as alternatives for the alveolar plosives. Most of the consonants can be in the initial, medial, and final position of a syllable. 1.1.3. Brief comparison between Vietnamese consonant sounds and English ones After reviewing the consonant sounds in English and Vietnamese, the researcher proposes an overall grouping of English and Vietnamese consonant sounds. The first group consists of consonant sounds which are shared by both of the languages. These consonant sounds are nearly identical in the two languages, such as the nasals (/m/, /n/, /ŋ/), the labio-dental fricatives (/f/, /v/), etc. The second group consists of sounds which only appear in one language. For example, the uvular fricative voiceless / χ/ in words like khó khăn does not exist in English; vice-versa, the English dental voiced fricative /ð/ is not a consonant sound in Vietnamese language, though it can sometimes be produced by a few people as an alternative sound of /z/. The third group consists of consonant pairs which are made up of sounds appearing in the two languages with only some certain different feature. The difference can come from the qualities of the sounds or the regional dialects. For example, the English alveolar voiceless plosive /t/ differs from the Vietnamese /t/ in the quality of aspiration; the post-alveolar approximant /r/ 7 appears in both Vietnamese and English, but the Vietnamese sound is sometimes pronounced with a slight vibration of the tongue tip, which is not a feature of the English sound /r/. The biggest difference existing between consonant sounds in English and Vietnamese is that the consonant sounds in English are pronounced when they are at the end of a syllable, which is a significant difference from Vietnamese final consonant sounds. For example, the final alveolar plosive sound of the word cut /kʌt/ is pronounced with the puff of air pushed out strongly, but the final sound of cắt in Vietnamese is unexploded. Pronunciation problems come mainly from the consonant sounds in group two and three, i.e. the sounds which do not exist in Vietnamese and the sounds which slightly differ from the Vietnamese equivalent sounds. 1.2. Review of some pronunciation teaching methods Pronunciation teaching has a long history and it has experienced different methods and approaches. This part of only reviews three significant teaching methods which are related to the techniques applied in this study. The first recognizable method was Direct Method. It first became popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This method uses students’ intuition and imitation to teach pronunciation. Students are required to approximate the model of the teacher or a recording through imitation and repetition. “This instructional method was grounded on observations of children learning their first language and of children and adults learning foreign languages in noninstructional settings” (Celce-Murcia et al, 1996, p.:3). One of the most significant techniques that came from the period of the Direct Method is listening and imitating. In this technique, students listen to teacher 8 modeling then repeat and imitate it. Nowadays, with the development of technology, tape recorders, video recorders, and language labs can be used as support to enhance this technique. The second significant trend in pronunciation teaching is the Reform Movement, which emerged in 1890s and was influenced by Henry Sweet, Wilhelm Vietor, and Paul Passy, who formed the International Phonetic Association and developed the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The phoneticians supporting this movement advocated that:  The spoken form of a language is primary and should be taught first  The findings of phonetics should be applied to language teaching  Teachers must have solid training in phonetics  Learners should be given phonetics training to establish good speech habits. As a result, phonetic training technique came to existence from the Reform Movement. It uses articulatory descriptions, articulatory diagrams, and a phonetic alphabet to teach learners the mechanism of sound production and sound transcription. The third trend was Audiolingualism in the United States in the 1940s and 1950. This method emphasizes the importance of pronunciation and state that it should be taught explicitly from the start. It is similar to the Direct Method in that the learner imitates the teacher’s modeled sounds. However, there is a remarkable technique in these methods which is the use of Minimal pair drills – drills that use words that differ by a single sound in the same position. This technique is used for both listening practice and guided oral production. It is based on the concept stated by Bloomfield (1933) that a phoneme is a 9 minimally distinctive sound. It normally begins with words and then move on to sentence drills. Some sample minimal pairs may be as followed: A B /i:/ /i/ Sheep ship Seat sit Least list Sleep slip Sentences: Don’t sit in that seat Is that a black sheep? vs. Is that a black ship? This is one of the most commonly used activities in pronunciation teaching. Using this activity, the teacher has students differentiate the sounds by listening, i.e. the teacher says two words (e.g., seat and sit) and has students decide if the sounds are the same or different. Then, the teacher should read a word from either list and asks students to identify which sound is being pronounced. After the listening discrimination comes the guided oral production practice. Students imitate teacher’s model to practice each list in isolation, then in contrast. Finally, individual students are called on to read the lists without a model. In the 1960s, with the development of the Cognitive Approach, which was influenced by Chomsky and Neisser and viewed language as governed behavior rather than habit formation, the role of pronunciation was 10 deemphasized. The arguments for that were that native-like pronunciation was an unrealistic objective and unachievable, and that time would be better spent on teaching more learnable items, such as grammar and vocabulary. The 1970s witnessed the two significant pronunciation teaching methods, namely the Silent Way and Community Language Learning. The Silent Way (Gattegno, 1972) pays attention to accuracy of both sound production and structure production from the initial instructing stage. Community Language Learning is a method developed by Charles A. Curran (1976). This method is intuitive and imitative as in the Direct Method. When the Communicative Approach to language teaching came to popularity in late 1970s, teachers decided that teaching suprasegmental features of language in a discourse context was the optimal way to organize a short-term pronunciation course for nonnative speakers. Today, pronunciation teaching seeks to identify the most important aspects of both the segmental and suprasegmental features, and integrate them appropriately to meet every learner’s needs. 1.3. Introduction of the contrasting and substituting techniques Teaching pronunciation to Vietnamese learners is a challenging task. In the teaching process, teachers may get different experiences, and they may have different ways of adaptation to the situation. Based on researches and studies on pronunciation teaching as well as classroom experiences, the researcher proposes contrasting and substituting techniques to solve some problems in pronunciation made by first year students at a specific language school. Vietnamese language shares almost the same letters in the English alphabet and the sounds represented by some of the letters sound quite similar to some 11
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