In this article I will briefly focus on how I try to develop listening skills with our young learners who are learning English as an additional language. I will identify a number of learning theories, together with a list of considerations and cautions with some insights that I have gained from trying to make listening in my classroom more comprehensible.
An ESL teacher in Saigon wrote me: "As you may have worked out already, the pronunciation of Vietnamese ESL learners is not great. I am looking at ways to try and improve the pronunciation of the learners at my school".
"As a linguist, do you have any insights into spoken English and the difficulties that syllable-timed L1s (Vietnamese people) might have learning a stressed-timed L2 language?"
"I am afraid of making mistakes in speaking English" - Nguyen Huy Duc, who has graduated from the Nguyen Trai High School in Hanoi, honestly admitted that though he learned English at school for seven years, from sixth to twelfth grade, he still cannot speak English. "Besides the lessons at school, I also went to English centers. However, I could not pass the exams to get the A-level English certificate," he said. "Now I have to struggle with English again at the university".
In the acquisition of a second language, speaking is a vital skill to master. In spite of that, according to Baker and Westrup (2003), in many countries, because it is not assessed in tests, teachers usually disregard this skill and focus on other features such as grammar or vocabulary. This is especially true in the case of English education in Vietnamese high schools. However, in numerous colleges, students’ speaking skill is appreciated and becomes a criterion in evaluating linguistic performances. At the English Department of Hanoi University, during the first two years, speaking is a subject on the curriculum. Therefore, many first-year English majors struggle with their study. In order to examine this matter, we conducted this research. In this small-scale project, we wish to identify problems facing students before and during the speaking process as well as in their practice strategies.
This article is written for teachers with large classes of students who have encountered some of the following or similar problems during speaking activities in their classroom. Why should we teach speaking skills in the classroom? Dealing with the arguments against teaching speaking skills...
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