Luận văn An investigation into Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School students’ difficulties in learning English pronunciation

4.1.1.7. Students’ awareness of the concepts of stress, intonation and rhythm.

Regarded to students’ awareness of the concepts of stress, intonation and rhythm, I gave them question 7 asking the respondents whether they understood the concepts with 3 possible answers for them to choose.

-yes, understand very well

- yes, but vaguely

-not at all

With the first concept, stress, most of the students seemed to understand the concept. There were 82 students who chose the first choice “yes, very well”, and 15 ones chose the second choice “yes, but vaguely” meanwhile only 3 respondents said that they understood nothing about stress.

The second category asked students whether they understood intonation concept when they learn English or not. A small number (11%) chose the first choice “yes, very well”, meanwhile a considerable number of students (55%) said that they understood the concept but vaguely and 44% chose the last choice which means that they understood nothing about intonation.

More seriously, the concept “rhythm” seemed to be least perceived by the students here. Among 100 respondents, only 8 respondents answered that they understood rhythm well meanwhile 39 ones chose the second answer and the left (53 respondents) answered that they did not understand the concept at all.

 

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rch methodology was presented briefly in the first chapter, the Introduction. In this chapter, once again, it will be discussed in more details. 3.1. Methodology 3.1.1. The research questions: The study was designed to seek the answer to the three following questions: Do students in Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School have difficulties in learning English pronunciation? What are their main difficulties as perspected by the students? What may be the causes of these difficulties? With these three research questions, the study will investigate secondary school students’ difficulties as well as the causes of these difficulties in learning English pronunciation. 3.1.2.Method orientation. As stated in the first chapter, to gain the aims with high reliabiity, the research employed different methods of a case study. That is classroom observation and questionnaires. These methods were used to collect data from students in Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School in Ha Tinh with the intention of addressing the aims of the study and then anlyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. According to Larsen-Freeman and Long( 1991:14), both qualitative and quantitative paradigms are not competing but complementary and the choice between them is not necessary. They mentioned that to gain the aims with high reliabiity, researchers should make a combination of these two paradigms. Because the study was designed to investigate the situation in a particular context, that is in Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School, the study was a case study. 3.1.3. The characteristics of a case study To understand the characteristics of a case study, first of all, some definitions of the term “case study” should be presented. As cited in Jaeger, (1988) by an unidentified student , a case study is what you call a case, in case, in case you don’t have anything else to call it” According to Smith, cited in Stake (1988), the definition of case study is ambiguous. However, the term “bounded system” defines the method for him. Johnson (1992) defines that a case study is a study which focuses holistically on an entity. In other words, a case study is a study which involves a detailed exploration of a single instance of, or example of, something. Gillham (2000:1) defines a case as: A unit of human activity embedded in the real world Which can only be studied or understood in context. Which merges in with context so that precise boundaries are difficult to define. Thus, a case study has some following characteristics. Firstly, The context isn’t necessarily a cultural context. It can be any context as long as the context is relevant to the research questions. The second characteristic is that it focuses on an individual. In other words, case studies seek to investigate one single small group of subjects only. It is concerned with the documentation and analysis of a single instance. A case study, that is to say, is one which seeks the different kinds of evidence which there is in only one setting, the case study. Another characteristic is that it provides a portrait of what going on in a setting. (as cited in Dr. Le Hung Tien’s lecture on case-study research). In other words, the researcher taking a case study does not start with a priori theoretical notions and in case studies the continual refining of hypothesis is not reflected. Because he can not know what theories or explanations make the most sense until he gets in there and select the data, gets to understand the context and analyzes the data. McDonough & McDonough (1997:212) claim that “ teachers spend their working lives dealing in different ways with individuals, and they need to understand those “cases”, not in the first instance to build theories and search for broader patterns, but to understand their learners’ behaviors’ learning styles, language development , success, failures, attitudes, interest and motivation. The fourth characteristic of a case study is that it can have objective and subjective accounts of data. According to McDonough & McDonough (1997:204), the study of cases is not only a qualitative undertaking, nor does it present an either/or perspective in quantitative / qualitative terms. Most of case study is quantitative because the weight of discussion on case study is on interpretive approach. However, it depends on the size of scale trend to be qualitative or quantitative or both. For example, when the researchers need to study large scale trends, cases will be usually selected on the basic of random sampling and the data submitted to stastical analysis. A case study is always selected because it deals with a considerably current issue. A case study focuses holistically on an entity. However, each case selected may be a representative for a general category. Because of these above characteristics, I decided to choose a case study for my research. The problems at Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School may be, to some degree, the same to those of many other mountainous schools in Vietnam. Furthermore, the aim of my research is to investigate the difficulties that Phuc Trach Upper Secondary students meet when they learn English pronunciation and to recommend some suggestions for teachers and learners to overcome these difficulties. The purpose of the study also stimulates me to choose a case study for my research methods. 3.1.4. The participants: With the questionnaire and classroom observation instruments, the participants are the students in two randomly selected classes to be the participants. They are both male and female. Among 100 respondents, 59 were female and 41 were male. All of them are at grade 11th who have been learning English for five years. I chose these grade 11th students to be the participants of the study because, firstly, they have two years of working with the new textbook meanwhile the 10th grade students have only nearly one year and the 12th grade ones have no year working with the new textbook which emphasizes much on pronunciation than the old text book. So the 11th grade students also have more time to deal with learning pronunciation. Further more, the 11th grade students also have more time to help me get the data meanwhile the 12th ones are busy preparing for the graduation exams. These 100 students were chosen randomly without no criteria set before. With this random selection, I hope to receive the most reliable and honest data from the questionnaires. In the questionnaires, I explained that their answers would be anonymous and my aim at giving them the questionnaires are just to get the data for the research without any other aims. With the interview instrument, the participants were ten teachers of English at Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School. Among them, there were seven male teachers and three female ones. They have been teaching at that school from one to six years. 3.1.5. The instruments. As I stated in the Introduction part, the research will be carried out by classroom observation, questionnaires and interviews The questions and interviews are designed into investigate these main following categories: - General attitude to learning English as well as speaking skill. - Students’ main difficulties in learning English pronunciation as experienced by the teachers. - The main causes of those difficulties. 3.1.5.1. The questionnaires: As we know, one of the most popular means of collecting data is using questionnaires. The reason for this is that, firstly, it is easy for us to construct and it does not either consume time or cost money. Secondly, questionnaires can help us to collect data in field setting, and the data themselves are more amenable to quantification then discursive data such as free-form field-notes, participant observers’ journals or transcripts of oral language (David Nunan 1992:143). Further more, we can achieve respondent anonymity when applying this type of instrument. There are two types of questions, closed and open-ended questions. The former kind of questions are often used to get answers which are factual or fairly predictable, meanwhile open-ended questions are preferred when the researchers expect to get answers which are in terms of opinions, beliefs or judgments. Further more, open-ended questions also give the respondents chances to express more opinions individually . Because of these above reasons, both two types of questionnaires were employed to get the data. To get the data reliably and avoid problems such as respondents’ shyness, the questionnaires were started with explaints about its aims as well as its respondent anonymity. In order that the students had no pressure of time and freedom, they were let to finish the questions at home for one day. Further more, all the questions were written in Vietnamese so that they could be at their best to understand the questions and express their thoughts and ideas. With the aims stated in the Introduction part, I handed out the questionnaires to the students. These questions were aimed at exploring students’ general attitude towards learning English .The followings are the more details about the questionnaires: Students’ general attitude towards learning English ( Q1) Students’ general attitude towards learning English pronunciation (Q2) Students’ awareness of the importance of learning English pronunciation(Q3) Do students’ difficulties in learning English pronunciation exist ? and what are the difficulties? ( Q4) What are English vowels that can cause problems to the students? (Q5) What are English consonants that can cause problems to the students? (Q6) Are the students aware of the concepts of stress, intonation and rhythm? (Q7) Do students have difficulties with English stress? (Q8) Do students have difficulties with English rhythm?(Q9) Do students have difficulties with English intonation? (Q10) After the respondents finished the questions, they handed in the papers to me so that I could do the data analysis. 3.1.5.2.Interview Interview, as we know, is a very useful tool to get the data. According to Hopkins (cited in McDonough & McDonough ( 1997 :181), there are three applications of interview in classroom research. The first application is to focus on a specific aspect of classroom life in detail, the second is to get diagnostic information, and the third is to improve the classroom climate. Nunan also gives more uses of interview instrument such as needs analysis, program evaluation, individual case studies and mini- surveys. From these above uses of interview, we can see that with this study, using interview instrument is very suitable to be applied. The questionnaires were used to investigate students’ general attitude towards learning English, English pronunciation and students’ difficulties in learning English pronunciation, This second instrument, the interview, was used to investigate what difficulties students meet when they learn English pronunciation. This kind of instrument, in this case study, had better be applied to the teachers who are more experienced and better at expressing the problems. So, ten teachers of English teaching at Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School were selected for a follow- up interview for more details in difficulties that studends often meet when learning English pronunciation. 3.1.5.3. Classroom observation: To suppliment the first and second instrument, the questionnaires and interview, I employed classroom observation for more data. Certainly, classroom observation is an instrument that can help researchers bolster the qualitative and quantitative results. Hopkins(1993) described classroom observation as a “pivotal activity” with a crucial role to play in classroom research, teachers’ personal professional growth, and school development as a whole ( as cited in McDonough, J and McDonough, S 1997:101). McDonough, J and McDonough also stated that observation with its associated , So it can help me test the validity of the data obtained about students’ attitude towards learning English pronunciation and their difficulties. When observing the class, I did a lot of note taking as well as audio-taping to ensure that the information collected was rich and triangulated . To make the students feel comfortable in the lessons, I just sat at the last row and took part in five different lessons as a non-participant observer to have a naturalistic observation. 3.1.6. Data analysis process The data collected from three different sources, the questionnaires, interview and classroom observation, were classified into different categories to analyze: Students’ general attitude towards learning English Students’ realization of learning English pronunciation importance. Students’ common mistakes when learning English pronunciation All the data were gathered to analyze both descriptively and interpretively. 3.2. Conclusion. In short, this chapter deals with the chosen research methodology, which includes six main points: research questions, method orientation, characteristics of a case study, the participants, the instruments and data analysis process. With the methodology presented, I hope to get the most triangulated and reliable as well as valid data. The next chapter will be the data analysis and discussion Chapter IV: Data analysis and discussions 4.1. Data analysis: 4.1.1. Questionnaires With the aim at investigating students’ general attitude towards learning English and English pronunciation as well as their difficulties when learning English pronunciation, all the questionnaires were gathered and analyzed both descriptively and interpretively. The results shown below are rather significant to the research. For more details, I selected main results to present as following. 4.1.1.1. Students’ general attitude towards learning English. In the questionnaires, the first question was made to investigate students’ general attitudes towards learning English. The first question asked the respondents if they liked learning English or not. There were four choices for them. After doing some statistics, the results were summarized as shown in the below table: Number of respondents Like learning English very much (%) Like learning English (%) Do not like (%) Neither like nor dislike (%) 100 34 45 16 5 Table 1: Students’ general attitude towards learning English Table 1 shows that most of the students here like learning English. There were 34 respondents who chose the answer “Like learning English very much” and 45 respondents who chose “Like learning English “. So in total the percentage of the respondents who liked learning English was 79% meanwhile only a small number (16%) disliked learning English and 5% of the 100 respondents said that they neither liked nor disliked learning English. The 79 students who chose the answer “like or like very much learning English also gave more reasons for being interested in the subjects. I chose some typical ones and then translate into English as below: • I think learning English can help people get a better job with high salary in the future. • Learning English is rather important because it is a compulsory subject when we are students. • I like learning English because it can bring me many opportunities to communicate with foreigners when I study on a big city in the future. •English, as we all know, is an international language. So it is very important for all people to acquire it. • Being able to speak English well is very interesting, it can help me sing English songs or watch international programs. In short, most of the students who chose the first and second answers recognized the importance of English. Meanwhile, most of the 16 students who disliked learning English explained the main reason for not being interested in the subject is its difficulties. They complained about the irregularities in grammar as well as in pronunciation. The below are some interesting expressions: • I dislike learning English because it is so difficult. I can not even know the use of any tenses. •English is so different from our mother tongue. So most of us find it difficult to speak English. We can’t understand what our teacher says everyday. •Learning English vocabulary is of great hard to me. • I hate learning English although I know some English grammar, I can not understand what the teacher says, especially when our teacher plays the tape, we hardly hear anything. Its pronunciation is so difficult to learn. • Learning English is rather interesting, but its pronunciation is so difficult. From some complaints above, we can conclude that most of the students do not like learning English because it is so difficult, both in grammar and in speaking in general and pronunciation in particular. 4.1.1.2. Students’ awareness of the importance of learning English. The second question were posed to investigate students’ evaluation of the importance of learning English . After doing some statistics, I got a very nice result. All of these 79 respondents who liked learning English expressed their awareness of the importance of learning English. And among 21 respondents who chose the answer “ dislike learning English” or “ neither like nor dislike”, 16 respondents said that although they were aware of the importance of learning English, they could not do it well because it is so difficult, which means that only a small number of the respondents (5 respondents) did not see English any important at all. One female respondent in class 11A5 shared her thought : “I know English is very important not only to our exams but also for our later study, but it is really hard, I hardly understand anything, either grammar or speaking”. Most of the respondents confessed that English was very important to them, and the reason for them to like English or not is its difficulties. In short, with the first and the second questions, I investigated, at least at Phuc Trach Upper secondary School, students’ attitude towards learning English. In general, most of them liked learning English and were aware of the importance of learning English as well. However, many of them complained about the difficulties when they learning English especially in grammar, in speaking in general and pronunciation in particular. This shows that students’ difficulties in learning English pronunciation do exist. 4.1.1.3. Students’ awareness of the importance of learning English pronunciation. In the questionnaires, the first and the second questions were made to investigate students’ general attitudes towards learning English and students’ awareness of the importance of learning English . And the third question was to investigate students’ awareness of the importance of learning English pronunciation. The question asked the respondents if they thought learning English pronunciation was important or not . There were four choices for them. After doing some statistics, the results were summarized as shown in the below table Number of respondents Very important (%) Important (%) Not important at all (%) Neither important nor not important (%) 100 41 33 15 11 Table 2: Students’ awareness of the importance of learning English pronunciation. From table 2, we can see that the number of respondents who considered English pronunciation important was 71, of which 41 respondents chose the first answer “very important” and 30 respondents considered English pronunciation was important. These respondents (71students) expressed that without good pronunciation, people could fail to communicate with others. Some of them also gave interesting comments. The followings are some representative ones: • Pronunciation, for me, is very important. Good pronunciation gives people confidence and success in communication. • I think pronunciation can decide whether a person can give the right messages to the listeners or not. • Bad pronunciation can cause a lot of nervousness in speaking. We daren’t speak any English because we are afraid of giving out wrong pronunciation, which can cause misunderstanding or no understanding at all. However, not all these respondents realized its importance. Among 100 respondents, 18 ones thought that pronunciation is not important and 11 ones thought that pronunciation is neither important nor not important. They also added the main reason for them to think that is the objective of the English tests they have to take do not focus much on pronunciation. They showed their ideas as followings: • I just try to study grammar because it is very important to us in the exams. • We do liltte about pronunciation in English tests. To pass the exams, mostly we have to study grammar and vocabulary. That is why we pay little attention to pronunciation. From question 3 (Q3), we can see that most of the respondents here recognized that English pronunciation is not only important in their lessons and exams but also in their daily communication. 4.1.1.4. Students’ evaluation on difficulties in learning English pronunciation With regards to the difficulties in learning English pronunciation (Q4), it is interesting To find that 100% respondents agreed that they had difficulties in learning English pronunciation. With the question “ do you think learning English pronunciation is difficult?”, I gave four choices: - Yes, it is very difficult. Yes, it is rather difficult. It is so so, neither very difficult nor very easy. No, it is very easy. Given four ways of answers as above, there were 72 respondents chose the first answer and the left chose the 2nd choice, which means that all the respondents agreed that learning English pronunciation is difficult. Some of them also gave interesting comments such as : • I find it really difficult to imitate the native-like pronunciation. • When the teacher plays the record, we can not hear anything. • Even my teacher does not give native-like pronunciation, that we find it difficult is a certain. • Mastery of English pronunciation helps students to speak English well, however, we find it really difficult to achieve native-like pronunciation. From some expressions cited above, we can conclude that they all have difficulties in learning English pronunciation. The result shows that learning English pronunciation is really a problem at this school. So an investigation into Phuc Trach Upper Secondary School students’ difficulties in learning English should be done. 4.1.1.5. Students’ difficulties with English vowels. Question 5 was given to the students to address their difficulties with English vowels. Although 100% students agreed that they found English pronunciation difficult, it was shown in the result of this question that they had little trouble with English vowels. 39 respondents said that they had no difficulty with English vowels, 19 % expressed that they had some problems with short and long vowel couples such as / ɒ/ vs. /ɔ:/, /ɪ/ vs. /i:/, and many of them found difficult to distinguish the two vowels /æ/ and /e/(67%). Despite the result, we should consider whether these respondents could realize their problems and express them or not. This will be complemented by other instruments: classroom observation and interview. In short, question 5 investigated students’ problems with English vowels. The result shows they had some problems with short and long vowel couples and the two vowels /æ/ and /e/. 4.1.1.6. Students’ difficulties in acquiring English consonants. With the aim at investigating the problems that students may get when they acquiring English consonants, I designed question 6 as following: - Among English consonants, which ones do you find hard to learn? And it can be clearly seen from the result that they had more problems with English consonants than vowels. The most common problems with English consonants were three word- final fortis stops consonants /p/ (81 respondents), /t/ (35 respondents), /k/ 25 %), and three dental consonant stops /f/ (34%), /v/ (34%), /ð/ (53%). They also expressed that they had difficulties with some similar pairs such as / θ/ in English vs. /t/ in Vietnamese and /ð/in English vs. /d/ in Vietnamese. More interestingly, from questions 5 and 6, two respondents answered that they do not know what English vowels are and what consonants are. This is a very considerable point for the teachers and students to think about. 4.1.1.7. Students’ awareness of the concepts of stress, intonation and rhythm. Regarded to students’ awareness of the concepts of stress, intonation and rhythm, I gave them question 7 asking the respondents whether they understood the concepts with 3 possible answers for them to choose. -yes, understand very well - yes, but vaguely -not at all With the first concept, stress, most of the students seemed to understand the concept. There were 82 students who chose the first choice “yes, very well”, and 15 ones chose the second choice “yes, but vaguely” meanwhile onl

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