Tài liệu An investigation into phonology problems encounter by beginner students in toeic listening section

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ********************* VÕ THIÊN AN AN INVESTIGATION INTO PHONOLOGY PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY BEGINNER STUDENTS IN TOEIC LISTENING SECTION Nghiên cứu những vấn đề về âm vị học mà học sinh trình độ sơ cấp gặp phải trong phần nghe TOEIC M.A MINOR THESIS FIELD: ENGLISH TEACHING METHODOLOGY CODE: 60140111 Hanoi, 2014 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES FACULTY OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ********************* VÕ THIÊN AN AN INVESTIGATION INTO PHONOLOGY PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY BEGINNER STUDENTS IN TOEIC LISTENING SECTION Nghiên cứu những vấn đề về âm vị học mà học sinh trình độ sơ cấp gặp phải trong phần nghe TOEIC M.A MINOR THESIS FIELD: ENGLISH TEACHING METHODOLOGY CODE: 60140111 SUPERVISOR: PHẠM HỮU ĐỨC, Ph.D. Hanoi, 2014 DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP I, Võ Thiên An, hereby declare that the thesis entitled “An investigation into phonology problems encountered by beginner students in TOEIC listening section” and the work presented in it is entirely my own. Where I have consulted the work of others, this is always clearly stated. Signed: ___________________ Date: _________________ i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all my lecturers at the Faculty of Post-graduate Studies, University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National University, Hanoi whose support and considerations have enabled me to pursue the course. I would like to express my deepest thank to Mr. Phạm Hữu Đức, Ph.D, my supervisor, for his instructive suggestions and valuable comments on the writing of this thesis. Without his help and generous encouragement, this minor thesis would not have been accomplished. I am also thankful to Mr. Vĩnh Huy, M.A, Ms. Chung Thị Thanh Loan, the employees and all my students from class TOEIC 300.21 and TOEIC 300.22 of Go Ahead center for their whole-hearted assistance in this study. I also owe my sincere gratitude to Mr. Vũ Minh Ngọc, M.A, my uncle Mr. Nguyễn Diệu and my cousin Ms. Nguyễn Diệu Minh who spent time to share their useful ideas for my thesis. Last my thanks would go to my beloved family, my friends and my boyfriend for their loving consideration as well as their share in listening to me and helping me to work out my problems during the difficult course of the minor thesis. ii ABSTRACT The score of TOEIC test in listening and reading reflects the proficiency of using English to communicate with native and non- native speakers of learners. In the recent years, Vietnamese students have considered TOEIC as a key to find a good job, get promotion or study abroad however they still find it difficult to be good at listening section in TOEIC because of some linguistic obstacles. This study is conducted to investigate some phonology problems that hinder students‟ success in TOEIC listening section. The data was collected through the survey questionnaires of 30 students and the interview of 2 teachers at a center in order to find out students‟ phonology problems in TOEIC listening section as well as the solutions for these problems. Key words: TOEIC listening section, phonology problems, beginner students, solutions. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP ..............................................................................i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................................ii ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................... iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................iv LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ...................................................................................... viii LIST OF TABLES ..........................................................................................................ix PART A: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................... 1 1. Rationale: .................................................................................................................. 1 2. Aims and Objectives of the study: ............................................................................ 2 3. Research questions: .................................................................................................. 2 4. Scope of the study ..................................................................................................... 3 5. Method of the study .................................................................................................. 3 6. Organization of the study.......................................................................................... 3 PART B: DEVELOPMENT ............................................................................................ 5 CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW ......................................................................... 5 1.1. English listening and its importance ...................................................................... 5 1.1.1. Theoretical background of listening and listening comprehension................. 5 1.1.2. The importance of listening ............................................................................. 7 1.2 TOEIC listening section: ........................................................................................ 7 1.3. Phonetics & Phonology in English listening ......................................................... 8 1.3.1. Definition of phonetics & phonology.............................................................. 8 1.3.2. Role of phonetics & phonology in Listening .................................................. 8 1.3.3. Listening Comprehension Obstacles regarding to Phonetics & Phonology . 10 1.4. Phonetic & Phonology problems students may encounter in TOEIC listening section: ........................................................................................................................ 11 iv 1.4.1. Sounds ........................................................................................................... 11 1.4.2. Accent ............................................................................................................ 12 1.4.3. Stress ............................................................................................................. 13 1.4.4. Intonation ....................................................................................................... 14 1.4.5. Connected speech .......................................................................................... 15 1.4.5.1. Weak forms ............................................................................................ 16 1.4.5.2. Reduced forms ....................................................................................... 17 1.4.5.3. Linking of words (liaison)...................................................................... 18 CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY ................................................................................. 20 2.1. Setting of the study and participants .................................................................... 20 2.1.1. Setting of the study ........................................................................................ 20 2.1.2. Participants .................................................................................................... 20 2.2. Data Collection .................................................................................................... 20 2.2.1. Data Collection Instruments .......................................................................... 20 2.2.2. Data collection procedures ............................................................................ 21 2.2.3. Data analysis procedure................................................................................. 21 CHAPTER 3: DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION .............................................. 23 3.1. Findings from the questionnaire: ......................................................................... 23 3.1.1. Students‟ evaluation of their listening ability: .............................................. 23 3.1.2. Students‟ evaluation of the importance of English listening skill................. 23 3.1.3. Students‟ evaluation of the difficulties of TOEIC listening section: ............ 24 3.1.4. Students‟ frequency of having phonetic & phonology problems in TOEIC listening section ....................................................................................................... 25 3.1.4.1. Students‟ problem with same and similar sounds .................................. 26 3.1.4.2. Students‟ problem with variety of accents ............................................. 26 3.1.4.3. Students‟ problem with stress ................................................................ 27 3.1.4.4. Students‟ problem with intonation of the speakers ................................ 27 v 3.1.4.5. Students‟ problem with weak forms ...................................................... 28 3.1.4.6. Students‟ problem with reduced forms .................................................. 28 3.1.4.7. Students‟ problem with linking of words............................................... 28 3.2. Findings from the interview: ............................................................................... 29 3.2.1. Students‟ opinion about their reasons of problems ....................................... 29 3.2.2 Teachers‟ interview ........................................................................................ 29 3.2.2.1. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with same and similar sounds .................................................................................................................. 30 3.2.2.2. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with accent ............. 30 3.2.2.3. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with stress .............. 31 3.2.2.4. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with intonation ....... 31 3.2.2.5. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with weak forms .... 31 3.2.2.6. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with reduced forms 32 3.2.2.7. Teachers‟ opinion toward their students‟ problem with linking of words ............................................................................................................................. 32 3.2.2.8. Teachers‟ explanations for the main reasons for students‟ problems .... 33 3.2.2.9. Some strategies to help students to deal with phonology problems in listening suggested by the interviewed teachers ................................................. 33 3.3. Pedagogical implications: .................................................................................... 34 3.3.1. Techniques to help students distinguish same or similar sounds .................. 34 3.3.1.1. Distinguish minimal pairs .......................................................................... 34 3.3.1.2. Missing words ............................................................................................ 36 3.3.2. Techniques to help students get familiar with accents, linking of words and reduced forms .......................................................................................................... 36 3.3.3. Techniques to help students get familiar with stress and intonation ............. 37 3.3.3.1. Rubber band practice with nonsense syllables ........................................... 37 3.3.3.2. Building up an intonation sentences: ......................................................... 38 PART C: CONCLUSION .............................................................................................. 39 vi 1. Conclusions of the study:........................................................................................ 39 2. Limitations of the study: ......................................................................................... 40 3. Suggestions for the study: ....................................................................................... 40 REFERENCE ................................................................................................................. 41 APPENDIX 1 ................................................................................................................... I APPENDIX 2 .................................................................................................................. II APPENDIX 3 ................................................................................................................. III DEFINITION OF TERMS Listening: An ability to identify and understand others‟ speech TOEIC test: An assessment of proficiency in English language which is used by both native and non-native speakers in the global workplace. Phonology: The study of sound systems Accent: A distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class Stress: Emphasis given to a particular syllable or word in speech, typically through a combination of relatively greater loudness, higher pitch, and longer duration Intonation: The rise and fall of the voice in speaking Connected speech: Sandhi-variation or reduced forms Weak forms: Unstressed syllables vii Reduced forms: The changes of pronunciation in adjacent words of sounds in spoken language Linking of words: The connection between the final sound of one word and the initial sound of the next one Phonology awareness: The ability to attend to the phonological or sound structure of language as distinct from its meaning. viii LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS TOEIC: Test of English for International Communication TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language IELTS: International English Language Testing System ESL: English as a Second Language NAE: North American English HCM city: Ho Chi Minh city viii LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Students‟ evaluation of their listening ability ..............................................23 Table 2: Students‟ evaluation of the importance of English listening skill ................23 Table 3: Students‟ evaluation of the difficulties of TOEIC listening section .............24 Table 4: Students‟ frequency of having phonology problems in TOEIC listening ...25 ix PART A: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale: In the era of globalization, using a foreign language fluently can help people have more chances to approach society‟s progress. Among foreign languages, English is the most popular language and is spoken all over the world. English is not only an international language in politics, external affairs and economy, but it is also used in international scientific activities. English is actually a means of effective communication which connects people around the world closer and closer. As the requirements of the new era, Vietnamese young generations have to adapt to the new trend of the world by studying and using English. In the recent years, studying and teaching English in Vietnam are more and more developed. The appearances of international English tests like TOEFL, IELTS and TOEIC really help Vietnamese students to approach the development of the world. Among international English tests, TOEIC is applied in many universities, colleges and English centers in Vietnam. Although TOEIC is very popular with many people all over the world, Vietnamese students still have to face with many problems in studying, especially the listening section in TOEIC. As an ESL teacher at a center in Binh Thanh district in Ho Chi Minh City, my duty includes teaching the TOEIC for students. After more than three years of teaching, I have found that students here have to encounter with some difficulties in listening such as the lack of vocabulary, the speakers‟ pronunciation, the linking of words, the intonation and the speed of native speakers. The cause of these problems comes from their habits of studying English at high school. Firstly, at high school, the English studying curriculum focuses more on reading and grammar, and students rarely 1 approach to listening and speaking skills. Secondly, at young age, English in their awareness is not as important as other subjects so they concern more on mathematic, physics and chemistry. Lastly, the English they studied at high school primarily concentrates on British English of which the pronunciation, accent, liaison, intonation, vocabulary and grammar are sometimes different from what they learn and prepare for TOEIC tests. For these reasons, I would like to conduct my research “AN INVESTIGATION INTO PHONOLOGY PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY BEGINNER STUDENTS IN TOEIC LISTENING SECTION”. My thesis will seek the phonetic and phonological difficulties that students meet in TOEIC listening process in order to find out some techniques to improve their listening ability. 2. Aims and Objectives of the study: My study is conducted with these main purposes: - To explore the students‟ perceptions of the TOEIC listening test - To investigate what phonology problems beginner students meet in the TOEIC listening process. - To suggest some suitable activities to help students overcome them. 3. Research questions: The research is conducted to answer 2 following questions: 1. What are the students‟ attitudes and perceptions to TOEIC listening section? 2. What phonology problems do beginner students meet in the TOEIC listening process? 2 4. Scope of the study This study focuses on some phonology problems that beginner students at the center in Binh Thanh district often meet in TOEIC listening section. These problems will be identified through the result of the questionnaire and the interview. The researcher also suggests some useful techniques and solutions for these ones. 5. Method of the study This study is a case study which used the interview and the survey questionnaire to collect data. The questionnaire was designed to find out the students‟ attitudes toward the listening TOEIC section and their difficulties regarding to phonetics & phonology in their listening process. Besides, this study also contained the interview from students and teachers in order to ensure the validity and the reliability of the data. 6. Organization of the study To achieve the aims of the study, this paper is divided into three main parts. They are INTRODUCTION, DEVELOPMENT, and CONCLUSION. INTRODUCTION includes the reasons of choosing the thesis, the aims, the scope, the research questions, the methods and the organization of the study. DEVELOPMENT consists 3 chapters. Chapter 1 presents the theoretical background relevant to the research. Firstly, some basic concepts of phonetics, phonology, listening and the TOEIC listening test are introduced. Then, the phonology problems that hinder students in TOEIC listening section are also presented. Chapter 2 is the research methodology. In this chapter, I will introduce the subject of the study, the instruments used to collect data and the procedure of data collection. Chapter 3 presents data analysis and discussion. The data will be analyzed through two instruments: questionnaire and the student and teacher interview. I also interpret the 3 findings. Some techniques and activities are also suggested to help teachers and students to overcome phonology difficulties in TOEIC listening section. The last part which is the summary of the findings is CONCLUSION. This part also includes the limitations of the study as well as some recommendations for further study. 4 PART B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1. English listening and its importance 1.1.1. Theoretical background of listening and listening comprehension When discussing „Listening as comprehension‟ in his book, Richards (2008:3) indicates that listening comprehension is the traditional thought of the listening nature. He points out “in most methodology manuals listening and listening comprehension are synonymous”. He explains this point of view based on “ the main function of listening in second language learning is to facilitate understanding of spoken discourse.” There are many definitions of listening with variable viewpoints have been suggested by scholars for years. Vygotsky (1962) as cited in Kuo (2009) states his own ideas about listening that listening is considered as the first intake that “involves thoughts delivered to human‟s mind through speech” in order to gain the language output and listening comprehension. Lynch & Mendelsohn (2002) ensure that in the past listening was considered as a passive process that our ears just received information and the listener passively registered the massage. However, they also give a new point of view of listening at present, they think that now listening is as an active process and good listeners are active when listening like native speakers. Bentley & Bacon (1996) also defined listening as an active process during which the listener constructs meaning from oral input. Purdy (1997:8) has the same idea as Bentley & Bacon by giving a definition of listening, "the active and dynamic process of attending, perceiving, interpreting, remembering, and responding to the 5 expressed (verbal and nonverbal), needs, concerns, and information offered by other human beings". Having the same idea, Thomlison (1984) indicates that listening is an ability to identify and understand others‟ speech. This process includes understanding speakers‟ accent or pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and meaning comprehension. An able listener has ability to do all four things simultaneously. Whereas, Underwood (1989:1) simply defines listening as "the activity of paying attention to and trying to get meaning from something we hear". Some researchers state that listening comprehension is considered as a channel for comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985) and as an important aspect of interlanguage communication in language acquisition (Swain, 1985). Hasan (2000:138) also emphasizes the role of listening comprehension as “listening comprehension provides the right conditions for language acquisition and development of other language skills”. Talk about listening comprehension, Murphy (1991:56) described it as an “interactive, interpretive process in which listeners engage in a dynamic construction of meaning”. Listening comprehension is regarded as a complex, interactive process in which listeners are involved in a dynamic construction of meaning. Listeners understand the oral input from sound discrimination, prior knowledge of vocabulary, grammatical structures, stress and intonation, as well as other use linguistic, paralinguistic, or even non-linguistic clues in contextual utterance (Rost, 2002). Vandergrift also defines listening comprehension as “a complex active process in which the listener must discriminate between sounds, understand vocabulary and grammatical structure, interpret stress and intonation, retain what was gathered in all the above and interpret it with the immediate as well as the larger sociocultural context of the utterance”. (Vandergrift, 1999: 168) 6 1.1.2. The importance of listening Wolvin & Coakley (1988) states that listening comes before speaking, reading and writing and it is the first skill developed. Feyten (1991) also emphasizes the importance of listening in communication by giving specific data in his research. He points out in the four skills, listening provides the largest percentage (more than 45%) of our total communicative competence, followed by speaking (30%), reading (16%), and writing (9%). Goh (2000) thinks listening is the primary means by which incoming ideas and information are taken in. Brett (1997: 39) also states that "listening is a key language skill. It has a vital role in the language acquisition process". Vandergrift (2007) emphasizes the importance of listening as the heart of language learning and the important skill to develop second language acquisition Rost (2002) also indicates that the ability of learners to use listening as a means of acquisition is a key difference between more successful and less successful acquirers. Besides, Rost states that progress in listening will provide a foundation for development of other language skills. Harmer (2007) also shares the same opinion with Rost. According to Hammer, listening is not alone in its process; it also contains and supports the other skills. Moreover, he confirms that listening skill can help student to improve pronunciation, intonation and the sounds of not only individual words but also those which go together in connected speech. 1.2 TOEIC listening section: TOEIC test is an assessment of proficiency in English language which is used by both native and non-native speakers in the global workplace. TOEIC test is considered as “a worldwide standard in assessment of international English use.” (Schedl, 2010: 1) In the English listening section of TOEIC test students will have the chance to show how well they understand spoken English. This section of the TOEIC test 7 includes 4 parts: Picture description, questions and responses, short conversation and short talk. (Byrne & Taylor, 2007:1-7) 1.3. Phonetics & Phonology in English listening 1.3.1. Definition of phonetics & phonology Phonetics and phonology are the abstract issues of linguistics. Many scholars give different definition of phonology for ages, but in general, they have the same opinion that “phonology is the study of sound systems” or “the study of how speech sounds structure and function in languages”, (Hyman, 1975:2). Hyman also distinguish clearly between phonetics and phonology. According to him, phonetics is about how the sounds are made and their acoustic properties. Phonology is about how these sounds convey the meaning. Forel & Puskás also agree with Hyman by citing the Vikner‟s definition in their book about Phonetics and Phonology: “Phonetics is concerned with how sounds are produced; transmitted and perceived (we will only look at the production of sounds). Phonology is concerned with how sounds function in relation to each other in a language. In other words, phonetics is about sounds of language, phonology about sound systems of language. Phonetics is a descriptive tool necessary to the study of the phonological aspects of a language.”(Vikner (1986) as cited in Forel & Puskás , 2005:3) In Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology of Trask (1996: 275), phonology is also defined as “the branch of linguistics dealing with the relations among speech sounds in particular languages and in languages generally, and contrasting with phonetics.” 1.3.2. Role of phonetics & phonology in Listening Many researchers find that pronunciation, phonetic and phonology have an important role in students‟ communication ability. According to Vandergrift (2007), 8
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