Teaching pronunciation to the first-year students at the university of transport and communications a case study

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TEACHING PRONUNCIATION TO THE FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS: A CASE STUDY PART 1: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale In the past few years, as the Vietnamese have come into contact with people from other countries, especially since Vietnam entered the World Trade Organization (WTO) and became one of twenty destinations of the world, there is a growing awareness of the importance of and need for communicative English. The emphasis in language teaching has changed to give spoken English the same status as written English, and the communicative language teaching is considered as a predominant approach in which teachers pay more attention to speaking and listening skills and need to perceive that these skills require not only vocabulary and ideas but also a reasonable pronunciation. Unfortunately, the outcome of communicative learning is not very satisfactory. Though they have learnt English at school and university, many students, especially non-English majors, often complain that it is really hard to communicate in English since they do not catch what the speakers are saying, and they are not confident to speak English. One of the reasons is their unintelligible pronunciation. Pronunciation plays an important role in second language teaching and learning. Without it, learners have many difficulties in getting their speech understood and understanding others’. Misunderstanding, communication breakdown or failure may occur due to mispronunciation. As a teacher of English at the University of Transport and Communications (UTC) for two years, the researcher has witnessed the great efforts made by her colleagues as well as students to improve the quality of teaching and learning English. As the teaching goals, all four language skills are equally focused in the teaching program which lasts three terms. Students are required to have good English for their next coming major studies, and for their 1 further future. Whereas, it is undeniable that, among four skills, students get worse score at listening and speaking. In such the context, pronunciation teaching should be taken in appropriate consideration so that the teaching goals can be met. However, up to now there has not been any research on teaching English pronunciation at UTC yet. Thus, the case study of teaching pronunciation to first-year students at UTC is of special importance. It describes pronunciation teaching in the context, specifying the shortcomings and then making suggestions to improve the teaching of pronunciation. 2. Aims of the study The aim of the study was to investigate how the teachers at UTC teach pronunciation to first-year students, with the goal of making suggestions for the teachers to improve the teaching of pronunciation. 3. Research questions Focusing on a case with a target on non-English-major students at UTC, this research examined the teaching of pronunciation. To achieve this, three research questions were proposed: (1) What are the teachers’ beliefs in teaching pronunciation? (2) What elements of pronunciations are taught? (3) How do the teachers deal with teaching pronunciation? 4. Scope of the Study This study plays the role as a case study. The researcher intends to describe the current situation of pronunciation teaching in the context of first-year students at UTC. It provides rich information about the teachers’ beliefs in the issue, pronunciation elements to be taught in the curriculum, the ways the teachers use to treat pronunciation teaching. 5. Method of the Study A qualitative and quantitative methodology was selected for this case study. This involves the following methods: 2 (1) Survey questionnaire (2) Interviews and discussions (3) Classroom observations (4) Curricula analysis The collected data come from 19 teachers of English at UTC, 57 classroom observations and the existing syllabus. Then the analysis is carried out in the light of finding out the answers to the research questions. 6. Organization of the study The study includes three parts: - Part 1, INTRODUCTION, introduces the rationale for the research, the aims of the study, the scope, the methods and the organization of the study. - Part 2, DEVELOPMENT, consists of three chapters as follows: - Chapter 1: LITERATURE REVIEW - Chapter 2: METHODOLOGY - Chapter 3: ANALYSIS, FINDINGS AND DISCUSSIONS - Part 3, CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS, summarizes some major findings, provides recommendations for teaching pronunciation, limitations of the study, and suggestions for further research. 3 PART 2: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1. Pronunciation and communicative teaching Pronunciation is not an optional extra for the language learner, any more than grammar, vocabulary or any other aspect of language (Tench, 1981). ‘Pronunciation’ is defined as ‘A way of speaking a word, especially a way that is accepted or generally understood.’ (American Heritage Dictionary, 1992). A reasonable pronunciation is important when a learner’s general aim is to talk intelligibly to others in another language. Making yourself understood when you say something, besides grammar, lexis, function, and discourse, it has to be pronounced reasonably well. It is necessary for a teacher to give due attention to pronunciation along with everything else. Students can be expected to do well in the pronunciation of English if the pronunciation class is taken out of isolation and becomes an 'integral part of the oral communication' class (Morley,1991). The goal of pronunciation should be changed from the attainment of 'perfect' pronunciation (A very elusive term at the best of times.), to the more realistic goals of developing functional intelligibility, communicability, increased self-confidence, the development of speech monitoring abilities and speech modification strategies for use beyond the classroom (Morley, 1991). The overall aim of these goals is for the learner to develop spoken English that is easy to understand, serves the learner's individual needs, and allows a positive image of himself as a speaker of a foreign language. The learner needs to develop awareness and monitoring skills that will allow learning opportunities outside the classroom environment. The communicative approach to pronunciation teaching requires teaching methods and objectives that include ‘whole-person learner involvement'’(Morley,1991). Morley states there are three important dimensions the teacher should catered for in any pronunciation program; the learner's intellectual involvement, affective involvement, and physical involvement. The learner's involvement in the learning process has been noted as one of the best techniques for 4 developing learner strategies, that is, the measures used by the learner to develop his language learning (Morley, 1991). It is the teacher's responsibility to develop the learning process so the learner has the greatest chance to develop the learning strategies that are unique to each individual learner. The teacher also has a special role to play in the communicative learning program, a role that Morley describes as one of ‘speech coach or pronunciation coach’. Rather than just correcting the learner’s mistakes, the ‘speech coach’ ‘supplies information, gives models from time to time, offers cues, suggestions and constructive feedback about performance, sets high standards, provides a wide variety of practice opportunities, and overall supports and encourages the learner’ (Morley,1991). It can be seen the teacher's role is not only to ‘teach’ but to facilitate learning by monitoring and modifying English at two levels, speech production and speech performance. 1.2. History and scope of teaching English pronunciation The role of pronunciation in the different schools of language teaching has varied widely from having virtually no role in the grammar-translation method to being the main focus in the audio-lingual method where emphasis is on the traditional notions of pronunciation, minimal pairs, drills and short conversations. (Castillo, 1990) During the late 1960s and the 1970s questions were asked about the role of pronunciation in the ESL/EFL curriculum, whether the focus of the programs and the instructional methods were effective or not. Pronunciation programs until then were ‘viewed as meaningless non-communicative drill-and-exercise gambits’ (Morley,1991). In many language programs the teaching of pronunciation was pushed aside, as many studies concluded ‘that little relationship exists between teaching pronunciation in the classroom and attained proficiency in pronunciation; the strongest factors found to affect pronunciation (i.e. native language and motivation) seem to have little to do with classroom activities’ (Suter, 1976, Purcell and Suter, 1980). Pronunciation has been regarded as ‘the Cinderella of language teaching’ (Kelly, 1969; Dalton, 1997). The above view that ‘little relationship exists between teaching pronunciation in the classroom and attained proficiency in pronunciation’ was supported by research done by Suter (1976) and Suter and Purcell (1980) on twenty variables believed to have an influence on 5 pronunciation. They concluded that pronunciation practice in class had little affect on the learner's pronunciation skills and, moreover ‘that the attainment of accurate pronunciation in a second language is a matter substantially beyond the control of educators’. They qualified their findings by stating that variables of formal training and the quality of the training in pronunciation could affect the results, as would the area of pronunciation that had been emphasized, that is segmentals (individual sounds of a language) or suprasegmentals. ( The ‘musical patterns’ of English, melody, pitch patterns, rhythm, and timing patterns (Gilbert, 1987) Pennington (1989) questioned the validity of Suter and Purcell’s findings as the factors of formal pronunciation training and the quality of the teaching, if not taken into account, could affect any research results. He stated that there was ‘no firm basis for asserting categorically that pronunciation is not teachable or that it is not worth spending time on...’. It is quite clear from the research mentioned above that the role of pronunciation training in the learner's language development is widely debated, with researchers such as Suter, Purcell, and Madden (1983) all thinking that pronunciation training is relatively ineffective, and in opposition researchers such as Pennington believing that teachers, with formal training in pronunciation and teaching suprasegmentals in a communicative language program, can make a difference. Between these opposing views, Stern (1992) says ‘there is no convincing empirical evidence which could help us sort out the various positions on the merits of pronunciation training’. There has been a move from teacher-centered to learner-centered classrooms, and concurrently, a shift from specific linguistic competencies to broader communicative competencies as goals for teachers and students. Morley states the need for the integration of pronunciation with oral communication, a change of emphasis from segmentals to suprasegmentals, more emphasis on individual learner needs, meaningful task-based practices, development of new teacher strategies for the teaching, and introducing peer correction and group interaction. (Castillo,1991) Research has shown that teaching phonemes isn't enough for intelligibility in communication (Cohen,1977). With the emphasis on meaningful communication and Morley’s (1991) premise, that ‘intelligible pronunciation is an essential component of communication competence’ teachers should include pronunciation in their 6 courses and expect students to do well in them. Without adequate pronunciation skills the learner’s ability to communicate is severely limited. Morley believes that not attending to a student’s pronunciation needs, ‘is an abrogation of professional responsibility (1991)’. Other research gives support to Morley’s belief in the need for ‘professional responsibility’ when the results show that ‘a threshold level of pronunciation in English such that if a given non-native speaker’s pronunciation falls below this level, he or she will not be able to communicate orally no matter how good his or her control of English grammar and vocabulary might be’ (CelceMurcia, 1987). Gilbert (1984) believes the skills of listening comprehension and pronunciation are interdependent: ‘If they cannot hear English well, they are cut off from the language...If they cannot be understood easily, they are cut off from conversation with native speakers.’ Nooteboom (1983) also has suggested that speech production is affected by speech perception; the hearer has become an important factor in communication discourse. This illustrates the need to integrate pronunciation with communicative activities; to give the student situations to develop their pronunciation by listening and speaking. The current research and the current trend reversal in the thinking of pronunciation shows there is a consensus that a learner’s pronunciation in a foreign language needs to be taught in conjunction with communicative practices for the learner to be able to communicate effectively with native speakers. 1.3. Approaches to teaching pronunciation According to Celce-Murcia’s review (1996), the field of modern language teaching has developed two general approaches to the teaching of pronunciation: Intuitive-imitative Approach and Analytic-linguistic Approach. 1.3.1. Intuitive-imitative Approach Intuitive-imitative Approach depends on the learner’s ability to listen to and imitate the rhythms and sounds of the target language without the intervention of any explicit information; it also presupposes the availability of good models to listen to, a possibility that has been enhanced by the availability first of phonograph records, then of tape recorders and language labs in the mid-twentieth century, and more recently of audio- and video-cassettes and compact discs. 7 Jones and Evans (1995) suggest teachers should take this approach at the beginning of teaching pronunciation: ‘Firstly it constitutes a more holistic approach in which, from the outset, different elements of pronunciation are seen as integrated. Secondly, it gives students a chance to experience pronunciation on intuitive and communicative levels before moving on to a more analytical exploration of specific elements of phonology. Finally, work in voice quality can help students to improve their image when they speak English, and thus increase their confidence’ 1.3.2. Analytic-linguistic Approach Analytic-linguistic Approach utilizes information and tools such as a phonetic alphabet, articulatory descriptions, chart of the vocal apparatus, contrastive information, and other aids to supplement listening, imitation, and production. It explicitly informs the learner of and focuses attention on such segmentals as the sounds and rhythms of the target language. This approach was developed to complement rather than to replace the intuitive-imitative approach. Two common approaches to teaching pronunciation mentioned by Tench (1984), Pennington (1989), Jones and Evans (1995), Dalton and Seidlhofer (1994) are Approaches of Bottom-up and Top-down. 1.3.3. Approach of Bottom-up Approach of Bottom-up has close relationship with accuracy which should be focused from the very beginning of a course. Teachers teach learners with the smallest and most concrete unit elements in pronunciation. The teacher goes from individual consonants and vowels to more abstract segments such as intonation and thought group. 1.3.4. Approach of Top-down Approach of Top-down gets the idea of contextualized sounds in connected speech. The teacher goes from the biggest elements to the smallest ones of pronunciation: from intonation or thought group, or contextualized sounds to individual sounds. 8 1.3.5. Approach of integrating pronunciation Hewings (2004) suggests an Approach of integrating pronunciation for some classes where pronunciation is given a lower priority than other components of language such as grammar and vocabulary. The teacher gives pronunciation a more central role in teaching by integrating it with other areas of language work, for example, connecting vocabulary and pronunciation, or the links between grammar and pronunciation. The approaches to pronunciation teaching above have been used worldwide in language teaching. However, it depends on the certain situation, the formal curricula and the teacher that decide which approach is of priority. 1.4. Techniques to teach pronunciation The Communicative Approaches, which are currently dominant in language teaching, hold that since the primary purpose of language is communication, using language to communicate should be central in all classroom language instruction. This focus on language as communication brings renewed urgency to the teaching of pronunciation, since there is a threshold level of pronunciation for non-native speaker of English; if they fall below this threshold level, they will have oral communication problems no matter how excellent and extensive their control of English grammar and vocabulary might be (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, Goodwin, 1996). To teach pronunciation as part of Communication Approach, Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin list ten techniques have been traditionally used and are still being used: 1.4.1. Listen and imitate: A technique used in the Direct Method in which students listen to a teacher-provided model and repeat or imitate it. This technique has been enhanced by the use of tape recorders, language labs, and video recorders. 1.4.2. Phonetic training: Use of articulatory descriptions, articulatory diagrams, and a phonetic alphabet (a technique from the Reform Movement, which may involve doing phonetic transcription as well as reading phonetically transcribed text). 9 1.4.3. Minimal pair drills: A technique introduced during the Audiolingual era to help students distinguish between similar and problematic sounds in the target language through listening discrimination and spoken practice. Minimal pair drills typically begin with wordlevel drills and then move on to sentence-level drills. 1.4.4. Contextualized minimal pairs: In this technique, the teacher establishes the setting and presents key vocabulary; students are then trained to respond to a sentence stem with the appropriate meaningful response. 1.4.5. Visual aids: Enhancement of the teacher’s description of how sounds are produced by audiovisual aids such as sound-color charts, Fidel wall charts, rods, pictures, mirrors, props, etc. These devices are also used to cue production of the target sounds. 1.4.6. Tongue twisters: A technique from speech correction strategies for native speakers (e.g., “She sells seashells by the seashore.”) 1.4.7. Developmental approximation drills: A technique suggested by first-language acquisition studies in which second language speakers are taught to retrace the steps that many English-speaking children follow as they acquire certain sounds in their first language. As children learning English often acquire /w/ before /r/ or /j/ before /l/, adults who have difficulty producing /l/ or /r/ can be encouraged to begin by pronouncing words with initial /w/ or /j/, and then shift to /r/ or /l/, respectively: / w/ → r/ w ed /j/ → /l/ r yet let r yo lun ed w ag / ag ung g 1.4.8. Practice of vowel shifts and stress shifts related by affixation: A technique based on rules of generative phonology (Chomsky and Halle 1968) used with intermediate or 10 advanced learners. The teacher points out the rule-based nature of vowel and stress shifts in etymologically related words to raise awareness; sentences and short texts that contain both members of a pair may be provided as oral practice material: Vowel shift: mime /ai/ mimic /i/ Sentence context: Street mimes often mimic the gestures of passersby. Stress shift: PHOtograph phoTOgraphy Sentence context: I can tell from these photographs that you are very good at photography. 1.4.9. Reading aloud/recitation: Passages or scripts for learners to practice and then read aloud, focusing on stress, timing, and intonation. This technique may or may not involve memorization of the text, and it usually occurs with genres that are intended to be spoken, such as speeches, poems, plays, and dialogues. 1.4.10. Recordings of learners’ production: Audio- and video-tapes of rehearsed and spontaneous speeches, free conversations, and role plays. Subsequent playback offers opportunities for feedback from teachers and peers as well as for teacher, peer, and selfevaluation. Except the last two techniques listed above, we can see that the emphasis in pronunciation instruction has been largely on getting the sound right at the word level – dealing with words in isolation or with words in very controlled and contrived sentence-level environments. The last two techniques allow learners to practice at the discourse level. However, the practice material is often fully scripted and sometimes highly contrived. 1.5. Elements of teaching pronunciation According to Kelly (2000), teaching pronunciation concludes: vowels, consonants, word and sentence stress, intonation, other aspects of connected speed and spelling. Whereas, Colin Mortimer (1985) argues that elements of teaching pronunciation are weak forms, clusters, linking-up, contractions and stress time. Linda Grant (1993) provides a more comprehensive and authentic elements of teaching. She organized the teaching elements from 11 sounds to syllables and words, to sentences and finally to discoursal segments. Elements of pronunciation to teach are as follows: 1.5.1. Sound and Spelling Patterns Sounds and spelling patterns are confusing aspects of English pronunciation. Sound and spelling correspondences in English are irregular because English has borrowed lots of words from other languages, from ancient Latin and Greek to Eskimo and Farsi. Homographs and homophones are two typical examples of unequivalence of sound and spelling. Referring to sound and spelling patterns, an effective pronunciation teaching must also consider individual sounds (vowels and consonants), phonetic transcription, syllable and ending sounds. 1.5.2. Word Stress Word stress must be highly focused on at the beginning of any pronunciation course to help learners to have understandable pronunciation. In every words two ore more syllables, one of them is stressed and stronger, louder and longer than the other(s). This stressed syllable is very important because speakers of English rely on patterns of stress to identify the words and phrases they hear (Linda Grant, 1993). The more frequently the speaker misused stress, the more effort the listeners have to make to understand what she/he is saying. 1.5.3. Rhythm ‘Rhythm is characterized by the alternation of strong and weak syllables’ (Kenworthy, 1992:30). Rhythm is a product of word stress and the way in which important items are foregrounded through their occurrence on a strong beat, and unimportant items are back-grounded by their occurrence on a weak beat. 1.5.4. Sentence focus and Intonation In spoken English, there are various ways in which a speaker gives the listener information about the relative importance of different parts of the massage. One of these ways is to put stress on the words that carry the most information. This usually called the main sentence stress (Kenworthy, 1992:32). Sentence focus and intonation refer to the intention and feelings of the speaker. When she/he speaks, she/he gives more emphasis on the most 12 important words. The teaching of sentence focus and intonation will be more successful if the teacher selects a context which forces learners to grapple with this notion of ‘importance’. 1.5.5. Thought group Words organized into short meaningful phrases by the speaker are called thought group. It is a suprasegmental factor of pronunciation, and it seems to be unteachable. However, if teachers simplify this abstract concept by explaining in a friendly way and providing authentic exercises, it will become teachable. Teaching thought group is a crucial element in teaching pronunciation. If a speaker does not divide the stream of speech into appropriate thought groups, the language may be challenging to understand, no matter how clearly each word is pronounced. So a really useful way to help students with their pronunciation is to help them become aware of thought group – a term from the excellent phonology book for learners ‘speaking clearly’ (Rogerson and Gilbert 1984). To define the ‘thought group’, Rogerson and Gilbert state ‘When we speak, we need to divide speech into small chunks to help the listener understand the messages. These chunks or thought groups are groups of words which go together to express an idea or thought. In English, we pause and low pitch to mark the end of thought groups.’ 1.6. The teacher’s roles in teaching pronunciation The usefulness of teaching pronunciation is a widely debated subject in the language teaching world. Some of the current research suggest that teachers can make little or no difference in improving their students pronunciation (Suter 1976, Purcell and Suter, 1980). In other words, the attainment of accurate pronunciation in a second language is a matter of substantially beyond the control of educators. However, there is research that indicates that the teacher can make a noticeable difference if certain criteria, such as the teaching of suprasegmentals and the linking of pronunciation with listening practice, are fulfilled. Pennington (1989) believes ‘teachers with formal training in pronunciation and teaching supragmentals can make a difference’. No matter how formal their training is, teachers play a key role in teaching and learning pronunciation. Some roles of a typical teacher of teaching pronunciation are mentioned (by Kenworthy 1996) as follows: 13 1.6.1. Helping learners hear Helping learners perceive sounds is part of teacher’s role. Learners often have a strong tendency to hear the sounds of English in terms of the sounds of their native language. Each language has its own categories of sounds. Teachers need to check that their learners are hearing sounds according to the appropriate categories and help them to develop new categories if necessary. 1.6.2. Helping learners make sounds It is obvious that some sounds of English do not occur in learners’ mother tongues. Sometimes learners will be able to imitate the new sound, but if they cannot then the teacher needs to be able to give some hints which may help them to make the new sounds. 1.6.3. Providing feedback Both the above tasks require the teacher to tell learners how they are doing. Often learners themselves cannot tell if they have got it right; the teacher must provide them with information about their performance. In other cases, learners may overdo something – they may make inaccurate assumptions about the way English is pronounced, perhaps because of the way it is written. This leads to another task for the teacher: 1.6.4. Pointing out what’s going on Learners need to know what to pay attention to and what to work on. Because while learners are speaking with the most part unconsciously controlled, they may miss something important. For example, they may not realized that when a particular word is stressed or said in a different way this can affect the message that is sent to the listener. Teachers need to make learners aware of the potential of sounds – the resources available to them for sending spoken messages. 14 1.6.5. Establishing priorities Learners need the help of the teacher in establishing a plan of action, in deciding what to concentrate on and when to leave well enough alone. Learners themselves can be aware of some of the features of their pronunciation that are ‘different’, but they will not be able to tell if this is important or not. They may notice that something about their pronunciation is not like the way English people do it and may automatically try to change this, but their efforts are misplaced because that feature is a refinement, or acceptable to the English ear. 1.6.6. Devising activities Learning pronunciation is so complicated that the teacher must consider what types of exercises and activities will be helpful. Which activities will provide the most opportunities for practice, experimentation, exploration? In designing activities for learning, teachers must also keep in mind that certain activities suit the learning styles and approaches of some learners better than others. 1.6.7. Assessing progress This is a kind of feedback or comment on their dealing with pronunciation work. Learners find it difficult to access their own progress so it will be meaningful if the teacher provide this kind of information. This is especially difficult in the activity of making sounds, but information about progress is often a crucial factor in maintaining motivation. 1.7. Pronunciation goal In teaching pronunciation, teachers keeps in mind these questions of what goals should be set for individual learners or groups of learners; How ‘good’ should the learner’s pronunciation aim to be? Some time ago, the goal should always be native-like pronunciation, and it was achieved by relatively few learners. It is thought to be an inappropriate goal for most learners. The great majority of learners will have a very practical purpose for learning English and will derive no particular benefit from acquiring a native-like pronunciation. 15 While native-like pronunciation may be a goal for particular learners, a far more reasonable goal is comfortable intelligibility (Kenworthy 1987, Morley 1994, Celce-Murcia et al 1996). It means that the speech is understood by a listener at a given time in a given situation. It is the same as ‘understandability’. 16 CHAPTER 2 : METHODOLOGY 2.1. The context of the study At the University of Transport and Communications, students are majored in science, technology and engineering. English is not considered a major. It is expected to be a tool for students to read documents of their own field (Formula of teaching goals, the Ministry of Education and Training). Like many other subjects, English is taught in a formal setting, namely a classroom. The teaching of English is divided into two stages. During the first stage, students study General English which focuses on four language skills. After the stage, students get the level of Pre-intermediate English. During the second stage, students learn their ESP. The first stage lasts two academic terms. The second stage lasts only one academic term. Every academic year, there are 2300 new comers who study English as a compulsory subject. (Statistics from the Training Chamber, UTC, 2007). They have already learned English at school, however, there is no classification of levels at this very beginning time. The students are gathered into groups of majors. If a group is larger than 50 students, it will be divided into two small groups for English class-times. On average, there are 40 students in a classroom of English. Therefore, it can be called a large class. All materials using for teaching and learning are self-edited textbooks called ‘New English’ series (Student’s Books), and cassettes for General English, a language lab for all groups to share. The textbooks were quoted from ‘Headway’, ‘New Headway’ by John & Liz Soars, ‘Lifeline’ by Tom Hutchinson, and ‘Power Base’ by David Evans. In this series of books, four basic language skills are equally developed. Other aspects of language are also integrated into teaching such as grammar, everyday English, vocabulary and pronunciation. The study focuses on teaching pronunciation to first-year students (at the stage of General English). It is worthy to note that the University gives a special priority to students of Road and Bridge English. The textbooks and other materials for such students are different from the rest of students at the university. In the study, those groups are not mentioned. The researcher only investigated on the teaching to the majority of students. 17 2.2. Rationale of using case-study as the research method A case study is defined as a study of a ‘bounded system’ emphasizing the unity and wholeness of that system, but confiding the attention to those aspects that are relevant to the research problem at the time (Johnson 1992). A case is a unit of analysis, for example, in education research, a case is probably a learner, a teacher, a class, or a school that exists in its natural occurring environment. A case study is used to describe the case in its context, to understand the complexity and dynamic nature of a particular entity. Data collection techniques for a case study are not complicated to implement. They can be entirely naturalistic observation, elicitation, interviewing, verbal reports or collection of written materials. The reason why the researcher chooses ‘case study’ as the research method is its characteristics can meet the aims of her study. The study is conducted to describe the situation of teaching pronunciation in the scope-limited context of first-year students at the University of Transport and Communications. It functions as a rich-information report on the issue to all the teachers of English at the University and to those who take interest in. With the information reported, implications are then made with the hope that the situation of teaching pronunciation will be improved. 2.3. Participants The participants were 19 teachers who fulfilled the questionnaire for teachers and do the interview. They are from different parts of Vietnam, but all living in Hanoi. They are from 25 to 52 years old; 18 females and only one male. The length of years of teaching English varies from 2 years to 21 years (63% more than ten years). 15 of them are M.A. in ELT or linguistics, the rest are attending a postgraduate course. The students who were involved in the lessons played a role as sub-participants. Those sub-participants’ feedback partly reflected the teaching. The researcher used their feedback in classroom as supplementary data to make the finding more reliable. 18 2.4. Data collection instruments To get the findings to research questions, these means of data collection were administered: 2.4.1. Class observations Thanks to the movement of class observation during the academic year of 2007-2008, which was founded for teachers of English to learn from experience and then had actionreviews, The researcher observed totally 57 different classrooms occupied by all the teachers of the English Section. From the observations, the researcher learnt how English was taught and learnt. The researcher particularly focused on the way teachers treated teaching pronunciation. 2.4.2. Curricula and Materials analysis To support the findings, the researcher examined the formal curricula and teaching materials in the consideration of teaching pronunciation. All the analyzed documents were two course books of New English (Elementary and Pre-Intermediate), cassettes/CDs and VCDs used along with the books, classrooms and facilities, and previous written reports by the teachers of UTC. 2.4.3. Questionnaire The questionnaire was designed with 10 questions to get information about the teachers’ beliefs and practice in teaching pronunciation. Collected demographic data included gender, age, years of teaching English, and professional qualifications. 2.4.4. Interview After the questionnaire was fulfilled by all the teachers, an interview to six of them began. These six teachers were chosen based on the variance in terms of age and point of view on the teaching of pronunciation. The researcher interviewed them separately when she met them at the teacher’s halls at breaking time. In addition, formal and informal discussions and 19 free talks with all the teachers and the administration staff to collect data for this study were also carried out. 2.5. Data collection procedure The study was conducted during the academic year 2007-2008 (from September 2007 to June 2008). The data was collected in following steps: First of all, the researcher had an overview of the syllabus of Elementary and PreIntermediate English course-books. She examined the elements of pronunciations to teach. Then she did 57 classroom observations and kept records of the teachers’ and students’ classroom activities. After each classroom observation, she transcribed and discovered the patterns of the teachers when they did the language teaching and especially teaching pronunciation. Next, she conducted a questionnaire based on the literature on teaching pronunciation, her observation of the context during two years of working at UTC and the discussion with other teachers at the university. The questionnaire was delivered to all the 19 teachers of English. She clearly explained the purpose of doing research before they fulfilled the questions. The participants were also encouraged to raise questions if there was something in the questionnaire they did not understand. They were instructed to take as much time as they needed to complete it. After that, she did the interview to six of them separately to get further information that she could not have during the observations or in the questionnaire. The participants in the interview varied in ages and years of experience so they could represent the whole teaching staff. The interview helped support the findings. 20
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