Research Paper on Teaching Speaking and Pronunciation in a Second Language
Learning of a second foreign language is of great importance in the modern world, where a person is considered to be highly educated only when he/she has knowledge in at least one foreign language. Globalization has opened the borders of the majority of countries giving all of us excess to learning foreign cultures, to work and travel abroad. However, without knowing a foreign language it is much more complicated and expensive. Employers do not want to hire new workers if the latter do not know the language of a country they wish to work in. Though traveling agencies offer interpreters and tour guides, who can speak about historic places of interest in a language understandable to tourists, it is more interesting and educative to be able to listen about historical background of a country you are traveling to in a native language. It is possible to speak about the importance of learning foreign languages for a long time, as the advantages that knowledge of foreign languages brings are remarkable, however, before using these advantages it is necessary to learn a foreign language, which sometimes may not be easy, as it may not be very easy to teach a foreign language as well. Generally speaking, learning of any language largely depends on the way it is being taught, making this process a rather subjective one.
Nowadays, teachers of second foreign languages, whether it is English, French, Spanish or German, can always find a market for themselves. Despite of the fact that language can be taught to people of any age or background, it does require certain techniques from the side of the teacher to apply while teaching a language to certain groups of people. Also, there is a significant difference in methods and techniques of teaching when a teacher’s goal is to teach how to write, to read or to speak a foreign language.
The main purpose of designing current study is to speak about teaching a second language. The paper will focus on teaching speaking and pronunciation as the main aspects of language learning, and techniques L2 (second language) teachers should use while teaching a foreign language.
Teaching Speaking and Pronunciation in a Second Language
For many years English was the only language used in business environment as the universal language. Nowadays, English-speaking businessmen and ordinary people find it necessary to also learn a foreign language as the more you know about a foreign environment the better. Purposes behind learning foreign languages may be very diverse, starting with plain curiosity and ending with “exigency” to learn a language as it is urgently needed for work or further studying. Very often when knowledge of a foreign language is needed, language “learning becomes dependent on teaching, for, despite the ease and inevitability of first language(s) acquisition in early childhood, language learning of any other kind turns out to be a complex and difficult task” . This is one of the main reasons why “language teaching has increasingly become a significant profession” . Despite of wide spread of teaching professions, language learning is not an easy process, which requires serious commitment from both a teacher and a learner. Teachers’ task at this point is rather complex too, as it is necessary “to devise methods, to create environments, to understand the processes, to simplify and systematize” .
While teaching a foreign language, a teacher’s main goals are to teach grammar, to teach how to pronounce sounds correctly, how to form sentences and to speak a foreign language. It is not enough just to teach how to read words and tell the meaning of the words. When taken separately words may mean nothing to the listener, but when a speaker forms well-considered and clear sentences he/she creates a meaning for the words that have been pronounced.
Pronunciation is one of the key constituents of success while learning and teaching a foreign language. Various techniques may be used by teachers to teach their students how to speak and pronounce correctly the sounds. Some teachers focus their attention on teaching specific sounds of a foreign language; usually these sounds are those that are uncommon for the learners’ native language. Other teachers may pay more attention to the whole process of speaking rather than concentrating on certain sounds. In this case, teaching speaking is a complex process, during which a learner is studying how to use the words that are learned in oral speech while learning their correct pronunciation. However, some scientific researches prove that “fluency-oriented training is clearly more helpful than a more segmental focus on individual, specific sounds” . Indeed, constant speaking and listening is what definitely helps the learners to acquire good pronunciation skills. So, after explaining some new material on how to pronounce words and word combinations, a teacher should organize certain activities which would help the students to practice what they have just learned. Pronunciation is closely linked to listening and actually hearing what is being said. Very often students, who have just started learning a foreign language, are not able to discern various sounds themselves, confusing them and the words that are pronounced. For this reason, it is very important that a teacher establishes teaching techniques allowing students to listen and to pronounce, because if students don’t hear something correctly they would never be able to pronounce it correctly. Of course perception of sounds largely depends on the adjacency of foreign language sounds to the sounds of the native language, thus, it is essential that a teacher considers what languages his/her students speak as their first languages. Some techniques that might be used by teachers while planning to teach pronunciation include: development of simple exercises, which would allow students to practice both perception and reproduction; communicative exercises with the teacher and with group-mates; repetition of sounds after a teacher, trying to imitate as much as possible and others. At this point repetition refers to two activities; one of them is reproduction of utterances pronounced by the teacher in the closest possible manner, and the other one is word memorization. Teacher-student relationship plays a great role at this point, as it is very important that students are not afraid to speak aloud, hearing their own pronunciation. Some students, mainly adults, are afraid to speak for the first time, thinking that they might make a mistake. Thus, it is necessary for a teacher to explain, that making mistakes is a part of learning, and that he/she as a teacher will help to correct them, and nobody is going to make fun of a person speaking with errors. While teaching correct pronunciation, a teacher needs to identify problem areas for every student and do his best at eliminating them by designing special tasks and oral exercises. Indeed, the more a student speaks, the better, because constant speaking, with teachers corrections, of course, improves students’ pronunciation. Thus, foreign language teachers “should encourage their learners’ involvement in real-life language situations (for example, interaction with native speakers) where the students are exposed to input-rich contexts . Listening and communication with native speakers appears to be one of the best methods of acquiring correct pronunciation. That is a why, L2 teacher may invite native speakers to the class to communicate with the students or use specially recorded audio tapes for students to listen to the real speech. In order to achieve significant results in teaching language pronunciation a teacher himself (herself) has to constantly enrich his/her knowledge by attending courses for teachers and communicating with the language native speakers.
The use of achievements of technological progress also contribute to effective teaching and learning of foreign languages. Nowadays, electronic dictionaries and training programs are designed, allowing student to enrich their vocabularies while learning how to pronounce the words. Invention of the Internet played an important role in the language teaching by offering such an option as distance learning. Having access to the Internet, teachers may use various web pages created for the purpose of learning foreign languages, as “there are a number of pages on the Internet that use audio to illustrate pronunciation for language students” .
A lot of teachers and experts in foreign language teaching state that speaking is the best way of learning a foreign language. While practical studies show that indeed speaking appears to be an effective method of learning a foreign language, before a student will start to speak it is necessary to teach him/her how to speak. The main goal of teaching speaking is to increase student’s communicative efficiency, which means that students need to develop certain skills which would help them to speak so they can be understood. The process of speaking involves several aspects: correct pronunciation, grammar, appropriate vocabulary and the awareness of social and cultural rules used in a foreign language when applied at different situations. So, in order to teach students to speak, teachers should first of all teach them how to pronounce the words correctly by using listening and reading exercises, imitation and repetition. Also, correct speaking means the usage of correct grammar forms and vocabulary, which should be taught before speaking and during the process of speaking, because speaking is the best way to practice a language. The last element of correct speaking, to which a teacher needs to pay attention to, is rules of communication. Every language has certain rules of communication, which should be learned in order not to sound rude or weird. Thus, a teacher needs to explain these rules making sure a student understands why they are important. Obviously, variation of techniques used by a language teacher is more effective than concentrating only on certain aspects of teaching.
Being itself one of the methods of learning a language, speaking has certain benefits. Such benefits include language fluency (how fast a student may use his/her knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation while speaking), motivation for further learning and discovery of gaps in knowledge. When a student says that she/her cannot speak, this means that more of so-called “input” is needed; this means that a student lacks knowledge in grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation. In order to teach students how to speak, teachers may adopt “a balanced activities approach that combines language input, structured output, and communicative output” . Language input has the “form of teacher talk, listening activities, reading passages, and the language heard and read outside of class” , structured output focuses on the usage of “correct form” , while in communicative output “the learners’ main purpose is to complete a task, such as obtaining information, developing a travel plan, or creating a video” .
Some teachers offer their students speaking tasks starting from the first lessons; however, students cannot fulfil these tasks as they do not have any knowledge of a foreign language. For this reason, it is more effective when a teacher gives their students certain input, before making them produce the output in the form of speaking.
Having spoken about some of the techniques that second language teachers should use while teaching speaking and pronunciation it is necessary make a conclusion. Despite of the wide spreading of self-learning programs allowing distance learning or learning without a teacher, it is the most effective to have someone (a teacher) to show students how to learn the language. Nowadays, the profession of second language teachers is at demand, as there are millions of students worldwide desiring to receive knowledge of a foreign language. As it has been stated above, teaching a language is a rather difficult task, which requires a lot of effort and the knowledge of special methods and techniques of teaching. Knowing a language means being able to speak it pronouncing correct sounds and using correct grammar forms, read and write in it, understand it while listening and speaking to native speakers. All of these aspects are important, and the lack of one of them means that knowledge of language is not sufficient. While teaching a language, teachers should make sure that their students’ pronunciation is correct, by making them fulfil certain activities and exercises. Actually, when communicating with a person, pronunciation is the first thing that is noticeable, thus, both a teacher and a student should do their best in mastering the skills of the latter in pronunciation. In its turn speaking is the essential goal of language learning. When this goal is achieved, a student would be able to use all knowledge in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, allowing teachers to estimate their level of work while hearing to the well-considered, correct and fluent speech of students.
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