Luận văn Factors Affecting ESP Vocabulary Learning at Hanoi Community College

Data from the questionnaire was classified into different categories such as students’ attitudes and motivation to ESP vocabulary learning; their difficulties in intralexical area, the reading materials (goal, learning task), the teachers (the availability of input or formal instruction), learners’ background knowledge about the topic and their expectations of ESP material and teachers’ methodology.

Then the data was analyzed using descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, percentage) and interpretations. The information was then displayed in forms of tables and figures.

 

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achieve by using these materials (such as remembering, comprehending, or using language). As Crookes (1986) defined, task is a piece of work or an activity, usually with a specified objective, undertaken as part of an educational course, or at work. In practice, it appears to refer to the idea of some kind of activity designed to engage the learner in using the language communicatively or reflectively in order to arrive at an outcome other than that of learning a specified feature of the L2. A task can be a real-world activity or a contrived, pedagogic activity (Nunan, 1989), as long as the process of completing the task corresponds to that found in discourse based on the exchange of information. (Ellis, 1994: 595) Tasks are specific language-learning activities that may facilitate optimal conditions for second language learning. (Fluente, 2006) Tasks should be structured in reference to desirable goals. The goal of L2 vocabulary tasks should be acquisition of words and expansion of word’s knowledge, not only the meanings but also the forms. In her research on “the role of pedagogical tasks and form-focused instruction” Fluente has concluded that “task-based lessons seemed to be more effective than the Presentation, Practice and Production lesson”. The analysis also suggests that a task-based lesson with an explicit focus-on-forms component was more effective than a task-based lesson that did not incorporate this component in promoting acquisition of word morphological aspects. The results also indicate that the explicit focus on forms component may be more effective when placed at the end of the lesson, when meaning has been acquired. Different types of task materials, task purposes, and tasks at various difficulty levels have various effects on the learners’ vocabulary acquisition. For example, learning words in a word list is different from learning the same words in a passage. As well, remembering a word meaning is different from learning to use the same word in real life situations. 1.3.4. Learning context: The learning context refers to the socio-cultural-political environment where learning takes place. The learning context can include the teachers, the peers, the classroom climate or the classroom interaction in general. With regard to classroom interaction and second language acquisition, Ellis (1994: 606) concluded that “Opportunities to negotiate meaning may help the acquisition of L2 vocabulary; Teacher-controlled pedagogic discourse may contribute to the acquisition of formal language skills, while learner-controlled natural discourse may help the development of oral language skills; Learners need access to well-formed input that is tailored to their own level of understanding. This can be achieved in teacher-directed lessons with a clearly-defined structure and by well-adjusted teacher talk;” All of these give support to the hypothesis: successful L2 learning may be possible in a favorable classroom environment. The learning context can include the curriculum and the availability of input and output opportunities. All of such factors may constrain the ways learners approach learning tasks and acquire vocabulary knowledge. 1.3.5. Learning strategies: Learning strategy is one important factor. A learning strategy is a series of actions a learner takes to complete a learning task. A strategy starts when the learner analyzes the task, the situation, and what is available in his/her own repertoire. The learner then goes on to select, deploy, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness of this action, and decides if s/he needs to revise the plan and action. Besides the above factors, the mother tongue can influence the way second-language vocabulary is learnt, the way it is recalled for use, and the way learners compensate for lack of knowledge by attempting to construct complex lexical items. The more aware learners are of the similarities and differences between their mother tongue and the target language, the easier they will find it to adopt effective learning and production strategies. Schmitt and McCarthy (1997:179) To sum up, psychologists, linguists, and language teachers have been interested in second language vocabulary learning for a long time (Levenston, 1979). In fact, the vocabulary field has been especially productive in the last two decades. This chapter aims to provide a brief look on vocabulary acquisition and factors affecting vocabulary learning according to prestigious linguists and researchers. This will serve as a base for the study to get its aim: finding out some factors affecting ESP vocabulary learning at Hanoi Community College. Chapter 2: The investigation 2.1. Current situation of the teaching and learning of ESP at Hanoi Community College Hanoi Community College (HCC) has been established since 2005, based on Hanoi Technical High School of Civil Engineering (founded in 1987 after the incorporation of 4 Hanoi Builders’ Training Schools founded in 1973). Hanoi Community College has a long standing tradition in training technicians and workers in the field of economics, technology, construction and architecture. Therefore, at HCC, ESP covers courses in several areas such as English for Construction and Architecture, English for Building Materials Technology, English for Finance and Accounting, English for Computer Science and English for Electricity. This is a technical college, so foreign language is not considered the main subject. It serves as a means that help students to read documents and machine manuals in English, but not to communicate with English native speakers. 2.1.1. Why English for Finance and Accounting? As mentioned before, this study investigates a group of students who are being trained to be accountants in the future. The accounting career is now in high demand. The number of students coming into the college to study Finance and Accounting is increasing quickly in recent years. They account for approximately 60% of the total number of students at the college. The learning program was designed by the teachers of English ten years ago. This is one of the two ESP syllabuses firstly applied at the college. The organizers of the course aimed at providing students a means to get access to the available English materials in the field. The syllabus focuses on the subject matters of Finance and Accounting through reading comprehension texts. Since vocabulary learning is believed to have “a synergistic association” with reading (Coady and Huckin, 1997:2), the investigation of this study was carried out to find out factors that affect vocabulary learning and thus give suggestions to improve students’ vocabulary learning and the ESP course as well. 2.1.2. The learners The learners of English at HCC are approximately from 19 to 24 in age. They come from different provinces of the country and bring with them different levels of English background. Almost of every student started English at the high school; although some of them learnt Russian, French and the others have never learnt a foreign language. Thus, the first thing the English teachers have to do is to improve the students’ level of General English before they can deal with subject matters in this language. Another problem of the students, especially the students at Vocational Training level, is that most of them do not have the habit of learning independently and tend to depend on the textbooks and the teachers for knowledge. This fact calls for a teacher’s provision of the methods of learning for students. From the survey and talks to teachers and learners, most of the learners said that they cannot express their ideas in speaking and writing lessons and it is difficult for them to get the gist of information from the conversation or texts in listening and reading lessons. They said that the reason for these difficulties is that they lack a great deal of vocabulary. So, there is a need to find ways to help the learners enlarge their vocabulary in general and ESP vocabulary in particular. 2.1.3. The syllabus and materials At HCC, English is taught in a formal setting, namely a classroom. The teaching of English is divided into two stages. During the first stage (consisting of two terms), the students study General English in a duration of 150 class hours for College students and 120 class hours for Vocational students. In the second stage, they are provided with an ESP course in their own specialization after having fulfilled the GE course. In the General English course, Lifelines Elementary is used as the course book for vocational students and Lifelines Pre-intermediate for college students. In the ESP course, the English teaching materials used for them is the book “English for Finance and Accounting”. It was designed by the teachers of English at the college with 30 class hours each (Vocational Training level) and 60 class hours each (College level). As mentioned in Part A (page 3), this study is limited to the ESP for vocational students, the syllabus and materials used for vocational students are discussed below. The ESP syllabus focuses on the subject matters of a specific area. The main focus of the present English for Finance and Accounting syllabus at HCC is reading comprehension and translation (mainly English-Vietnamese translation). The texts and the exercises were designed in the form of a content-based syllabus rather than a task-based one. It includes seven topics which are dealt with in 30 class hours, 3 class hours per week. The exercises after each text are often reading comprehension and grammar exercises. Five texts out of the total nine have got one vocabulary exercise each. All of the vocabulary exercises are blank-filling, one word for each blank in separate sentences. There is a list of new words and their meanings in Vietnamese at the end of each unit. The teaching syllabus is designed in the form of a form-focused instruction. Less attention is paid to vocabulary in the specific area. 2.1.4. The teachers and their methods of teaching Six English teachers have been working at our English Division, aged from 30 to 45. All of them have graduated from a formal ELT training course from different tertiary institutions in Vietnam. The oldest teacher has more than 25 years of teaching experience and the youngest one has got 3 years. Nevertheless, none of us has had any chances to participate in refreshment courses abroad. Five of us have the responsibility to teach both GE and ESP. None of us, however, has been trained in teaching ESP. So we are facing with many difficulties in teaching process, of which the lack of the specific knowledge and the choice of appropriate teaching materials and methodologies seem to be the major concerns. For most of the ESP teachers at HCC, the common method of teaching in ESP reading lessons is the traditional teacher-centered, especially to Vocational students. In classes, explanation, translation, asking and answering questions are the main class activities. The teachers are often asked to explain every new word, new structure and even to translate the text into Vietnamese. Our students are usually passive in the learning process. The major interaction patterns in the classroom are: - Teacher-whole class (most of the time) - Teacher-student interaction (sometimes) - Students initiating interaction: pair work, group work, questions and comments (occasionally). Through class observation and small talks to ESP teachers and learners, it is obvious that most of the teachers teaching ESP at HCC are deeply influenced by grammar-translation method. Therefore, their lessons focus on grammatical structures and translation, and they do not pay much attention to vocabulary teaching. There are no language activities for vocabulary learning. This may be one of the reasons why the learners find it hard to acquire the vocabulary in the specific field. Research methodology 2.2.1. Research questions The study aims at finding out the most influential factors according to the learners and what is the learners’ need in terms of the materials and the methodology. 1. What are the factors affecting ESP Vocabulary Learning at Hanoi Community College? 2. What are the suggestions to help the learners learn ESP vocabulary better? 2.2.2. The participants The participants of this study were 100 vocational students of the Department of Accounting who were in the first term of their second year at HCC, and had finished both GE and ESP courses. The reason for choosing the second-year students for this study is that at this college only the second-year students can learn ESP after they finish a GE course in the first year. The research is based on the approach of Fraenkel and Wallen (1996) for randomly selecting three classes for investigation, instead of randomly selecting the individuals, as it is more appropriate and convenient for observation of the participants who filled the questionnaires in classes. They come from all parts of the country. 81% of these students come from the countryside, only 19% are from towns and cities. Most of them are female (79%). Their age varied from 19 to 24 so they belong to the same psychological age group. However, their English learning background was different. 92% have learnt English before entering HCC. 20% of which have learnt English for more than 5 years, 65% have learnt English for 2-4 years and only 7% have learnt English under 2 years. Among 8 students who have not learnt English before, 4 have not learnt any foreign languages. Although they were required to finish GE only at Elementary level, a lot of the students may find it easy while these 8 students have to struggle with it in only 120 class-hours in their first year. So, it can be said that the proficiency level of the students before the ESP course is mainly elementary. All of the student informants had learnt 135 class-hours out of the total 285 class-hours of the accountancy subject in theories, which is their specialization for studying at HCC. In the third term at HCC, they learn the rest 150 class-hours in theories, and in the forth term they will have 240 class-hours more to practice with the accountancy subject. There were also informal interviews with five English teachers and 5 teachers teaching the accountancy subject at HCC. 2.2.3. Data collection instrument: The questionnaires were constructed based on the literature on ESP vocabulary learning, the researcher’s observation and experience got during her 10 years of teaching at HCC, and the discussion with the other five English teachers at the college. The questionnaire was written in Vietnamese to make sure that the participants could fully understand the questions before giving their answers. The question items were multiple choice, rating-scale, agree/disagree and both close-ended and open-ended. The questionnaire consists of three main parts: Part one: collect information about the students’ background – place of domicile, number of years they have been learning English, their proficiency levels in English. Part two: collect information about the factors affecting ESP vocabulary learning. This part includes three subparts: Part A - students’ attitudes towards ESP vocabulary learning (finding about person-dependent factors); Part B – the reading material, their difficulties and the causes (investigating intralexical factors, learning context); Part C – the teachers and teaching method (finding information on input/output opportunities, etc.). Part three: their expectations of ESP material and teachers’ methodology. The sample of the questionnaire is presented in the appendix. 2.2.4. Data collection procedure: To obtain the data for the investigation, the questionnaires were delivered to 100 students during the class time. The students were given clear instruction before each question so that they could respond appropriately to each question. After the questionnaire was administered, the respondents were encouraged to read it thoroughly and answer frankly and truly. Then they will be instructed to take as much time as they need to complete the questionnaire. 2.2.5. Data analysis Data from the questionnaire was classified into different categories such as students’ attitudes and motivation to ESP vocabulary learning; their difficulties in intralexical area, the reading materials (goal, learning task), the teachers (the availability of input or formal instruction), learners’ background knowledge about the topic and their expectations of ESP material and teachers’ methodology. Then the data was analyzed using descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, percentage) and interpretations. The information was then displayed in forms of tables and figures. Findings and discussion 2.3.1. Factors affecting ESP Vocabulary Learning at Hanoi Community College Factors affecting ESP vocabulary learning were categorized in terms of the participants, the reading materials and the teachers. Twenty questions and statements were designed to make it clear. 2.3.1.1. The participants’ background The participants involved in this research are 100 vocational students of Finance and Accounting Department, who had fulfilled both of their general English course and the course of English for finance and accounting. Figure 1. Students’ background Duration of learning English before entering this college Students’ birthplace Students’ level of English before participating this ESP course As can be seen from the bar charts above, majority of the participants had learned English before having participated in this college in which 65 percent of them has learned from 3 to 4 years. However, 8 percent of the students had never learned English before entering this college. Different starting points of the students made it difficult for them to share the same ESP course. Furthermore, 81% of these students come from the different provinces in the countryside of Vietnam. Thus, they seem not to be of equal starting level of English. That is the reason why we had made all efforts to bridge the gap between them but it did not bring about much effect. Consequently, figures from the bar chart have shown that 26% of the students did not pass the final examination of the general English course. And 74% of them were qualified enough for the requirement of the course in which 45% of them just passed at the level of satisfactory, 18% got the good scores and 11% won the excellent marks. Studying results of the general English course revealed the fact that it was rather hard work for both of the students and the teacher to run the English course of finance and accounting. 2.3.1.2. Learners’ attitude towards ESP vocabulary learning It should be taken into account students’ belief and attitude toward role of ESP vocabulary. When they find it necessary to learn ESP vocabulary for their future job, they would be highly motivated in learning process. Question 1 This question aimed at investigating the students’ beliefs about the necessity of English after graduation. As can be seen from figure 2 that they showed a very high demand in using English as a means for ESP reading, 30% believed that they would need English to deal with a lot of ESP reading for their profession or further study. Another 45% believed that they would use English to read ESP materials (option E) as well as a means supporting for their future work (option C) and communicating with foreigners (option D). Surprisingly, no one thought that they would no longer use English after graduating and a small number 5% showed that English would be mostly used for entertainment. Therefore, it is clear that almost of the participants were aware of the important role of English especially ESP for their future job. A: I don’t need to use English any more B: I may use English mostly for entertainment C. I may use English as a means supporting for future work D. I may use English to communicate with foreigners E. I may use English to read finance and accounting materials Question 2 Since the students had expressed their need for ESP reading as the results from the previous investigation, the purpose of this question was directly to investigate what is the most important factor in learning ESP. Results of investigation are described as follows: Very important Important Neutral Unimportant Vocabulary 43% 30% 17% 10% Phonetics 2% 12% 28% 58% Grammar 23% 42% 25% 10% Table 1: Students’ evaluation on the importance of vocabulary, phonetics and grammar in ESP learning Figure 3: Students’ evaluation on the importance of vocabulary, phonetics, and grammar in ESP learning As you can see from the table and the chart, a majority of students (73%) agreed that vocabulary plays an important role in learning ESP in which up to 43% confirmed that it plays very important role. But only 14% of the students agreed with the importance of phonetics meanwhile only 10% denied the role of grammar in ESP learning and 65% of the others accepted the necessity of grammar for ESP learning. Those numbers revealed the fact that ESP vocabulary should be equipped as much as possible for their future job. It is needed for the participants to improve their professional knowledge by reading materials related to their professional knowledge. Moreover, ESP vocabulary helps them to extend their knowledge and be proficient in their future work. Question 3 Background knowledge of professions had much influence on ESP learning process. Good background knowledge of finance and accounting would help students understand the right meaning of finance and accounting terms so ESP vocabulary acquisition seems to be much easier process for them. Moreover, they are much inspired to involve in the ESP learning activities. That is the reason why this question was designed to measure the participants’ understanding of terms of finance and accounting. Results of the investigation shown in the chart claimed that there was still a rather large number of the students (35% including 22% of no understanding and 13% of absolute no understanding) could not understand finance and accounting terms after being explained by the teacher. Figure 4. Students’ understanding Finance and Accounting terms in Vietnamese lessons Among 65% of the others who could understand finance and accounting terms after the lesson, only 10% had good understanding. Therefore, it would be better to equip students with better specific background knowledge before dealing with ESP. Question 4 Besides many other factors like background knowledge of finance and accounting, teaching method, and other learning conditions, the efficiency of vocabulary acquisition also much depends on the learner’s memory and their learning strategies. This question was designed to investigate the average number of new lexical ESP terms could be acquired by the students. Figure 5. Possible number of words could be memorized after a lesson Results shown in chart presented that only a small number of the students 7% can remember more than 30 new words in an ESP lesson after one week. It seems to be unrealistic to hope that they could absorb more than 30 new lexical terms a week on average. The average number of new items included in each lesson of this course was about from 30 to 35, which was a challenge for almost every student here. Nevertheless, 49% of them found it possible to learn from 10 to 20 new items after a lesson. 82% of the informants believed that they could not remember from 21 to 30 new words for a lesson. When doing this investigation, the researcher encountered with some difficulties such as the overlap between what was meant by familiar and the new lexis and the students might not have estimated exactly how many words they could remember, which, to some extent could led to an incompletely reliable statistic. It was unavoidable for them to consider a word that had been repeated and recycled many times in the lessons as the new one if it was rather difficult to remember. Question 5 This question investigated how much time the learners usually spent learning vocabulary. Nation (2000; 6) emphasizes that learning new words is a cumulative process with words enriched and established as they are met again. Therefore, learners should be hard-working and spend much time learning vocabulary if they want to be masters a great amount of words. As the numbers from the chart, only 8% of the students have good habit of learning new vocabulary everyday. In the college, there were only 3 class hours distributed for an English for finance and accounting lesson once a week. Thus, it is rather long time for them to recycle the new words if they do not have their habit of self-learning at home. However, not many students (47%) attempted to learn new w

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