Spoken Communication Problems of Aden University EFL Undergraduate Students. Causes and Solutions

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2021

301 Pages, Grade: A+


Table of Contents

1.0. Introduction
1.1. English as an international language
1.2. Status of English in Yemen
1.3. University of Aden
1.4. Statement of the problem
1.5. Aims of the study
1.6. Questions of the study
1.7. Hypotheses of the study
1.8. Significance of the research
1.9. Research design
1.10. Scope and limitations of the study
1.11. Definitions of the main terms of the study
1.12. Outline of the study

2.0. Introduction
2.1. What is communication?
2.1.1. Elements of communication process
2.1.2. Types of communication Non-verbal communication Verbal communication Written communication Spoken communication
2.2. Spoken communication skills
2.2.1. Speaking skill Widdowson’s view of speaking
2.2.I.2. Bygate’s view of speaking
2.2.I.3. Levelt’s view of speaking, Harmer’s view of speaking skills
2.2.2. Listening skill
2.3. Communicative competence
2.4. Spoken communication proficiency
2.5. Second/ foreign language learning
2.5.1. Language learning versus language acquisition
2.5.2. Theoretical background of second/ foreign language learning
2.6. Factors affecting learners’ acquisition of their target foreign language
2.6.1. Traditional teaching settings
2.6.2. Affective factors
2.6.3. Lack of language learning strategies
2.6.4. Student’s age
2.6.5. Environmental factors (Lack of exposure to the target language)
2.6.6. The influence of mother tongue
2.7. Spoken communication in EFL classroom
2.7.1. Natural communication vs. classroom communication...
2.7.2. Pedagogical perspectives of spoken communication in classroom, Harmer’s view of ‘What is communicative?’ Canale’s pedagogical model of communication Littlewood’s pedagogical view of communication Nunan’s view of communication and CLT in classroom Kumaravadivelu’s strategic framework of communicative classroom Thornbury’s view of communicative classroom
2.7.3. Classroom activities for developing spoken communication proficiency Communicative activities vs. non communicative activities Classroom tasks Types of classroom tasks and activities
2.8. Spoken communication skills in FL/SL teaching methodology
2.8.1. Grammar translation method
2.8.2. The direct method
2.8.3. The reading approach
2.8.4. Situational approach/ oral approach
2.8.5. Audio-lingual method
2.8.6. Communicative language teaching
2.8.7. Task-based language teaching and learning approach.
2.9. Previous studies on EFL students’ spoken communication proficiency

3 Research Design
3.0. Introduction
3.1. Statement of the research problem
3.2. Sample design
3.3. Data collection instruments
3.3.1. Questionnaires, Students’ questionnaire Validity of students’ questionnaire Reliability of student’s questionnaire Administration of students’ questionnaire Teachers’ questionnaire, Validity of the teachers’ questionnaire Reliability of the teachers’ questionnaire Administration of the teachers’ questionnaire
3.3.2. Spoken communication proficiency assessment rubric ... Validity of the spoken communication proficiency rubric Administration of the spoken communication proficiency rubric
3.3.3. Interviews Students’ interview Teachers’ interview Validity of the interview
3.3.4. Classroom observation Observation checklist design Validity of the observation checklist Administration of the observation
3.3.5. An assessment of the speaking skill syllabi
3.4. Statistical procedures
3.5. Thesis writing and formatting

4.0. Introduction
4.1. Students’ questionnaire
4.1.1. General details (demographic information) about the Participants
4.1.2. Fourth-year EFL students’ spoken communication difficulties
4.1.3. Possible factors behind students’ graduation with low spoken communication proficiency, Factors related to students themselves, Students’ perceptions of oral skills and competencies Students’ attitudes and motivation towards English and English learning Students’ learning strategies to develop their spoken skills
4.I.3.2. Students’ past experience with English
4.I.3.3. Environmental factors Classroom teaching and learning associated factors Factors related to the curriculum
4.1.4. Students’ responses to the open-ended questions
4.2. Students’ interviews
4.3. Students’ spoken communication proficiency assessment rubric
4.3.1. Students’ fluency and automaticity skills
4.3.2. Students’ pronunciation
4.3.3. Students’ communication strategies
4.3.4. Students’ listening comprehension skills
4.4. Teachers’ questionnaire
4.4.1. General details about the participants
4.4.2. Fourth-year EFL students’ difficulties from their teachers’ perspectives
4.4.3. Factors behind students’ poor spoken communication proficiency Teachers’ perceptions of the importance of language skills Factors related to teaching methodology Factors related to the curriculum Environmental factors Students’ personality traits Students’ past education
4.4.4. Categorization of the factors having affected students’ acquisition of spoken communication proficiency
4.4.5. Teachers’ responses to the open-ended questions
4.5. Speaking skill teachers’ interviews
4.6. An assessment of speaking syllabi
4.7. Classroom observations
4.8. Discussion of the results
4.8.1. Students’ spoken communication difficulties
4.8.2. Factors behind students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency
4.8.2.I. Factors related to the students Students’ past education Environmental factors Teacher and classroom teaching associated factors Curriculum related factors

5.0. Introduction
5.1. Problem of the study and its questions
5.2. Students’ spoken communication difficulties
5.2.1. The major difficulties Fluency and automaticity related difficulties Lack of communication strategies
5.2.2. The medium difficulties
5.2.2.I. Phonological difficulties Lack of sociocultural knowledge Comprehension difficulties Lack of discourse knowledge Affective difficulties
5.2.3. The minor difficulties Grammatical and lexical difficulties
5.3. Factors behind fourth-year EFL students’ graduation with poor spoken communication proficiency
5.3.1. Factors related to the students
5.3.2. Students’ past education
5.3.3. Environmental factors
5.3.4. Factors related to teachers and classroom teaching
5.3.5. Curriculum related factors
5.4. Solutions and recommendations
5.5. Suggestions for future studies



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I hereby declare that the work incorporated in this thesis entitled “Spoken Communication Problems of Aden University EFL Undergraduate Students: Causes and Solutions” has been carried out by me under the guidance of Dr. Sunil V. Pawar, Principal and Professor of English, S.M.D.M. College, Kalamb. The work is original and has not been submitted in part or in full to any other University or Institute for the award of any Degree or Diploma. The information derived from the existing literature has been duly acknowledged in this thesis.

Place: Aurangabad Name & Signature of the Researcher

Date: 10/12/ 2021 Sabri Thabit Saleh Ahmed


First and foremost, I am thankful to Allah for helping me to get this work done. Then, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to my research guide Dr. Sunil V. Pawar, Principal and Professor of English - S.M.D.M. College, for his constant guidance and invaluable recommendations throughout the research process, without whom this research would not have been completed.

I would also like to express my thanks to the referees of my data collection instruments, namely Dr. Ali Haydarah, Dr. Wadhah Mahwari, Dr. Saleh Karamah, Dr. Abdulbari Mahboob, Dr. Nabil AL-Somaiti, Dr. Nadia Mohammed, Dr. Adnan Abdul-Safi, Dr. Ali AL-Hadhrami for their comments, criticism, and recommendations which played a major role in improving the quality of my data collection instruments. My words of thanks are also extended to Mr. Anis Thabit, Mr. Ahmed AL-Jasser, Mr. Ameen Ameed, and Mr. Ahmed Moayed for their help and advice regarding the use of the SPSS software in my data analysis.

I also appreciate the constructive discussions I had with some professors and colleagues regarding my research topic and research methodologies generally, namely Dr. Ali Haydarah, Dr. Gilmore Alexnder, Dr. A. M. Sarwade, Dr. Aref Nasi, Dr. Wagdi Bin Hadi, Dr. Jaklin AL-Batani, Dr. Samira AL-Hosni, Dr. Zakaria Othman, Miss Shimaa Hwaider, Mr. Fadhel Mohsen and many others whose opinions and inputs were of a high value in my research. I hereby extend my thanks to all my teachers of primary school, secondary school, undergraduate and postgraduate studies whose credit to this achievement cannot be denied.

I would also like to express my greatest thanks and prayers to my parents (May Allah shower His mercy on their souls) who taught me the meaning of life, education, and humanity; and whose support, encouragement and guidance allowed me to reach my dream. I also extend my thanks to my wife, brothers, and sisters for their care, support and encouragement. I also thank my little son ‘Saleh’ who endures travels and lacks fatherly care due to my research.

I also express my thanks to the University of Aden for nominating me for Ph.D. study. I am also thankful to all the EFL students and teachers who participated in this study, the authorities of the concerned faculties, and all those who gave me a hand in the implementation of my research instruments, particularly, Dr. Adel Dulul, Dr. Fahmi AL- Mafalis, Dr. Abdulwadood Hashmi, Mr. Fadhel Mohsen, Mr. Abdulwahab Hussein, and Mr. Ghamdan AL-Shuaibi. Finally, I thank all my relatives and friends for their support and encouragement during my research journey.


This humble work is dedicated to the souls of my parents (May Allah shower His mercy on their souls) who departed our world in the mid of 2020 while I was at the final stage of my research work. They were the greatest guides and supporters for me, without whom this work would never have been accomplished and I would never have been a human being. It is really a sad moment not to have them at this critical stage of my academic life which was their greatest dream.


This study was designed to investigate the spoken communication difficulties encountered by the fourth-year EFL students of some rural faculties of Aden University and the factors that might negatively contribute to their poor acquisition of spoken communication proficiency during their learning of English in these faculties to reach some suggestions and solutions that may help in changing the current situation and enabling the concerned EFL programs produce proficient speakers of English. The data were collected through varied instruments, namely students ’ questionnaire (n = 120), teachers ’ questionnaire (n = 23), students ’ interviews (n = 30), speaking skill teachers ’ interviews (n = 4), students ’ spoken communication proficiency assessment rubric (n = 42), classroom observations (n = 6), and an assessment of speaking skill syllabi. The collected data were analyzed by using the SPSS 21st version and manually. The results revealed that the majority of the students encounter fluency and automaticity related difficulties and lack of communication strategies. Moreover, some students also share one or more difficulties with these two major ones, such as phonological difficulties, comprehension difficulties, sociocultural difficulties, lack of discourse knowledge, affective difficulties, and lexical and grammatical difficulties, respectively. Though the majority of the students seem to have mastered a somehow sufficient level of grammar and vocabulary, many of them cannot put their lexical and grammatical knowledge into use orally. It has also been revealed that several factors are responsible for students’ poor acquisition of spoken communication proficiency. These factors can be categorized into five types, namely a. factors related to the students themselves, namely students’ lack of language learning strategies to develop spoken English and lack of integrative motivation, b. factors related to student’s past education, namely students’ poor English level when they joined the concerned faculties in addition to the traditional learning habits they brought from their pre-tertiary education, c. factors related to students’ environment, namely lack of exposure to spoken English provided by the environment, d. factors related to teaching methodology, such as lack of communicative activities, majority of the students are rarely engaged in spoken activities, mother tongue use in English classes, no language laboratory or ICTs, low qualifications of some teachers, i.e. a semi-traditional teaching setting is still dominant in most classes, and e. curriculum-related factors, namely lack of time devoted to teaching spoken communication skills and the overuse of non-English subjects. As per the results, this study has provided some suggestions and solutions that will help in changing the current situation and enabling the concerned EFL programs to produce proficient speakers of English.

Chapter One


1.0. Introduction

Communicating orally in English is the goal that approximately all EFL/ESL learners wish to achieve in their learning of English and the ability by which a learner’s success in language acquisition is usually measured (Nunan, 1991, p. 39). It is for this reason that there has been a trend since the 1970s onwards to implement communicative syllabi and communicative language teaching that enable foreign language learning programs to produce learners who can use their target languages proficiently. Universities and EFL programs have positively responded to such a trend and worked hard in changing their traditional syllabi and teaching methodology to ensure the implementation of more effective EFL learning. However, such a shift in EFL teaching and learning is not an easy task that every EFL program can successfully and effectively implement. Modified forms of traditional teaching still exist till today in several EFL programs and are employed even by some EFL teachers who claim their commitment to communicative language teaching (Kumaravadivelu, 1993; Nunan, 1987). It was dominant for many decades in the past that language teaching is limited to the teaching of vocabularies and grammatical rules and this traditional view of language learning has left its major impact on foreign language learning programs.

Language is a system of communication and language learning should be viewed as an active process of acquiring such a system and using it for communication. In the words of Scarnio and Liddicoat (2009), “[l]anguage is not a thing to be studied but a way of seeing, understanding and communicating about the world” (p. 16). They viewed language learning as a social practice that “requires students to engage in tasks in which they create and interpret meaning, and in which they communicate their own personal meanings” (p. 17). Hence, EFL programs should focus on communication skills to succeed in producing proficient speakers of English. This usually requires communicative syllabi and communicative language teaching methodology together with training both EFL teachers and students on modern technology and new trends in language teaching and learning to ensure proper implementation of communicative EFL learning in their classrooms. It happens in some contexts that even if communicative syllabi are prescribed for EFL learning, teachers prefer using modified forms of traditional teaching in their classroom teaching and they do not spend sufficient efforts to help their students develop their spoken communication proficiency. In the Yemeni context; for example, communicative syllabi were introduced for teaching English in the Yemeni primary and secondary schools in the 1990s but it is taught in most of these schools traditionally with a more focus given to grammar, lexical competence, and reading comprehension while spoken skills are given less attention or ignored in both classroom teaching and assessment (Ahmed & Pawar, 2018b, Ahmed & Qasem, 2019; Alnaqeeb, 2012; Al-Sohbani, 2013; Al-Tammimi & Attamimi, 2014; Bin Hadi, 2016; Hwaider, 2016).

Spoken communication skills should constitute a major part of any language teaching program as its uses occupy most of our time in comparison to the written ones. I am not here arguing for overemphasizing spoken skills at the expense of the written ones but I would like to make it clear that spoken skills should be given their appropriate space in language syllabi and classroom teaching. We usually learn our mother tongues by listening, then speaking before going further for reading and writing. Hence, in EFL teaching, we should give listening and speaking skills their due space from the first stage of language learning and not let language learning be more limited to literacy skills, claiming that the spoken skills will be developed later on when learners have mastered a good level of grammar and vocabulary.

Nowadays, speaking English is the most sought skill and “a large percentage of the world’s language learners study English to develop speaking proficiency” (Richards & Renandya, 2002, p. 201). Broughton, Brumfit, Pincas, and Wilde (2002, p. 35) argued that the history of language teaching has shown an emphasis on a very limited range of competence in the past which has proved less than useful for any real communicative purpose. Pertaining to English, they argued that its use was confined largely in that time to the academic purpose and some limited fields like commerce and that is why they thought it could be adequate to have only such a limited command in English, mainly in writing. In contrary, in our modern era the world has become smaller and spoken English has become more vital in our communication in several aspects of life. It has become necessary nowadays to equip learners with the command of English which allows them to interact and express themselves in a variety of contexts both orally and in writing. This can be achieved, according to Broughton et al. (2002, p. 36), through giving greater emphasis on learners’ communicative needs and providing teaching materials that are rich enough to satisfy these needs in addition to selecting the right communicative activities that raise learners’ motivation, promote communication skills development and make language classroom more fun and dynamic (Nunan, 1991; Lazarton, 2001).

Since many EFL students of the rural faculties of Aden University graduate with poor spoken English, the need for this study came out to address a very important question entitled: why do many of Aden University EFL students of the rural faculties graduate while they are unable to communicate orally in English?. By delving deeply into this problem and knowing all its details, this research will provide an in-depth picture of the problem and conclude with some recommendations that will help the concerned faculties to improve their EFL learning programs and produce proficient speakers of English. Before getting into the problem of the study, its objectives, and questions, this chapter will provide some information about English as a global language and its status in Yemen.

1.1. English as an International Language

In the recent centuries, English has spread around the world due to different reasons, namely the British colonial domination over the world, the scientific advancement, the rise of America as a great power leading the world, and the emergence of modern technologies such as TVs, computers, telephones, media, internet.. .etc. The industrial revolution and technological development have made the world smaller and people’s need to communicate with others out of their boundaries has become more necessary. Since it is difficult for everyone to learn all the languages of the world, some languages got the prevalence to be shared languages for people from different countries of the world. For example, languages such as Greek, Latin, and Roman had been used in various parts of the world and they were considered global languages in different periods of history. The nations of these languages were ruling the world or some parts of it and could propagate and force their languages in their colonies worldwide. In the last few centuries, it was expected that English should dominate the world and become the global language in the 19th and 20th centuries onwards due to the reasons above mentioned. In this regard, Crystal (2003) has quoted a phrase from a speech for future US President John Adams in 1780 who said that “English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries, more generally, the language of the world as Latin was in the past or French is in the present age” (p.74). This phrase reflects his view of the world in the next centuries as a world dominated by these two major military and economic powers, i.e. Great Britain and the United States of America.

The rise of America as a military, political and industrial power with its remote colonization of many parts of the world has also helped in promoting the importance of English. It has become the most sought language for those who want to do business worldwide or to get access to modern science and technologies. Such a value given to English in the various fields of science, technology, trading, politics ...etc made people from the different parts of the world recognize its importance and teach it to their children. It is taught today approximately in all countries though its place in school curricula may differ from one country to another. While it is a medium of instruction in some countries, it is taught as a compulsory subject within the school curricula in some other countries. Even in those countries where English is only taught as a compulsory subject within the school curricula, as in the case of Yemen, we find that English is taught as a major course at the undergraduate and postgraduate stages and it is also used as a medium of instructions in English departments and some private schools and scientific colleges.

However, the global status is not only determined by the huge military force or the large population of its speakers and that is why the Chinese language has not yet gained a global status. Economic and military domination can play a role in promoting a particular language and that language will only achieve its global status when it has a function in every country. According to Crystal (2003), a “language achieves a genuinely global status when it develops a special role that is recognized in every country” (p. 3). In the case of English, it is the most widely used language today and it has a function almost worldwide (Broughton, et al., 2002). The number of its non-native speakers exceeds the number of its native speakers as the estimates in the early 2000s showed that there are about 1500 million speakers of English, among them approximately 750 million speakers are first and second speakers of English and an equivalent number of speakers are its foreign speakers (Crystal 2003, pp. 68-69).

English is spoken today as a native language in the U.K., United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and some Caribbean countries; as a second language in some countries, such as Nigeria, Ghana.. .etc.; and as a foreign language in over than 100 countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, China, Gulf countries.etc. (Broughton, et al., 2002; Crystal, 2003; Ellis, 1994). Its status in every country is determined based on its function in the communication of the people of the country. In the countries where English is considered as a second language, it has a special function in some courts of law, governmental offices, schools, universities, media, and in some daily interaction. On the other hand, it is considered as a foreign language when it has no or little function in people’s communication. In these countries, it may only be taught as a school subject in schools and as a major course in higher studies. It may be used as a medium of instruction for some science courses and some private schools. It may also have some little use in media, tourism, embassies, and international companies working in these countries. Though the status of English can be different from one country to another as shown above, it should be highlighted here that English is widely spreading across the world and its speakers are increasing every day. In this regard, Broughton, et al. (2002) argued that:

Barriers of race, color, and creed are no hindrance to the continuing spread of the use of English. Besides being a major vehicle of debate at the United Nations, and the language of command for NATO, it is the official language of international aviation, and unofficially is the first language of international sport and the pop scene. ... Indeed more than 60 percent of the world’s radio programs are broadcast in English and it is also the language of 70 percent of the world’s mail. (p. 1)

From the discussion above, it can be concluded that English is the global language of our today’s world because it is taught and has some communication function worldwide. Even if some other languages are used as means of communication, mediums of teaching, or taught as foreign languages in some countries, as in the case of French in some of its former colonies, English is the most common language of our today’s world and it is considered to be the global language of our era.

1.2. Status of English in Yemen

In the past, the place of English in People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (Southern Yemen or South Arabia) was different from its place in Arab Republic of Yemen (Northern Yemen or Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen) due to the different political scenarios in each country. Northern Yemen was colonized by the Turkish occupation in the 19th century and then ruled by the Imamate regime in the first half of the 20th century. During this period, English had no place in education and local people’s communication. It was then introduced as a compulsory subject to be taught at schools from the 7th grade of the primary stage after the 1962 revolution when an education system began to spread all over the country (Mohmmed 1992; Modhish, 2015; Saif, 2013). Its oral use was limited to some embassies, international companies, international organizations and some tourist places in the communication with international people. With the establishment of Sana’a University in the 1970s, English was introduced as a major course for diploma and Bachelor degrees and most of the teachers of English in Northern Yemeni schools and Sana’a University were expatriates, particularly Egyptians. On the other hand, Southern Yemen was colonized by the British from 1839 till 1967 and they introduced their English in Aden colony. English was the language of the colonizers and it was widely used in most of the governmental offices and daily communication between the colonizers and the native people. It was also taught in schools in Aden and it was used as a medium of instruction in most of these schools. It was considered to be the prominent official language for the government in Aden colony. Bahumaid (1990) described the role of the English language during the British rule as follows:

The linguistic scene was characterized by the ascendancy of English, the language of the dominant culture, and the enhancement of its status and role in society. It was the official language in the Colony. It was also the medium for legal proceedings in the courts, commercial and banking transactions, and all other types of business dealings. In addition, English was the medium of instruction in government secondary schools and most private schools and institutes and a compulsory subject from the final year of the primary cycle. (p. 93)

After the independence in 1967, Arabic had restored its prominence as the official language in all the governmental offices and as a medium of instruction at schools and universities. Since then, English use was reduced to become a foreign language to be used for communication only in some places where native people and international people get in touch with each other. It had also become a compulsory subject to be taught from the 5th grade of the unity stage in all the public schools in Southern Yemen. When Aden University was established in the 1970s, English was introduced as one of the courses to be provided by the University for Diploma and B.A. degree.

In today’s Yemen, English is spoken as a foreign language in some tourist places, international hotels, international companies, international NGOs, and some foreign embassies where people from different tongues get in touch with each other. It is taught as a compulsory subject for six years in all Yemeni schools beginning from 7th grade of the primary stage till the 3rd grade of the secondary stage. It is also taught as a major course for B.A., B.A. & Ed. and B. of translation at the university level.

It’s also taught for M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at some universities. It is used as a medium of teaching in English departments, some scientific faculties as medicine and engineering and some English medium schools. It is also taught in some private institutions which spread all over the country. It has become one of the requirements for working in diplomatic sect, joining medicine and engineering faculties, joining higher studies for M.A., M.Sc. and Ph.D. and for applying for scholarships to study abroad. English also has its place in Yemeni media as there are English news reports on the radio and TV channels once or twice a day. There are also some weekly English newspapers such as the Yemen Times and Yemen Observer in addition to some English news websites.

Yemeni government and Yemeni people have recently recognized the importance of English as an international language that should be taught to their children to enable them easy access to knowledge, technology, and the modern world. It is for these reasons that several private institutions have been established for teaching English in addition to some few English medium schools. Many Yemeni families, in the major cities particularly, send their children to such private English programs and English medium schools despite the high fees they have to pay in comparison to their low income. The government also send some of its students to learn English in English-speaking countries to build up their proficiency in English. The demand for English in Yemen is growing up and its future can be much better as the number of its Yemeni speakers is continuously increasing.

1.3. University of Aden

The University of Aden was founded in the 1970s to become the first University in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen for providing higher education for bachelor’s degree and diploma. It has its roots in establishing the College of Higher Education in Aden in 1970, then Nasser’s College of Agricultural Sciences in 1972. In 1974, the College of Economics was founded. These colleges were considered as independent units under the ministry of education till 1975 when the prime minister issued a statute pertaining to the foundation of the University of Aden as a scientific university to include these colleges and some other faculties that were founded later on, such as medicine, law, engineering, education, arts, and oil & mineralogy.

With the development of Aden University to meet the needs of the teaching system of the country and to create generations of educated and literate people, new faculties of education were founded in other governorates, such as the faculty of Education - Zingubar in 1979; the faculty of Education - Saber in 1980. Then, in the 1990s and afterwards, more faculties of education were established in some rural areas, such as the faculty of Education - Shabwa in 1994, the faculty of Education - Radfan in 1998, the faculty of Education - Yafa in 1998, the faculty of Education - Lowder in 1998, the faculty of Education - Toor Albaha in 1998, and the faculty of Education - Al-Dhala in 1998. The government established such a large number of educational faculties in these rural areas to provide higher education to those poor rural students, especially girls, who face difficulties to travel for studying in the major cities such as Aden as well as to prepare local teachers for the primary and secondary schools in these far distant areas. In this regard, Saad (2015) justified the need for establishing such a large number of faculties of education as follows:

The reason for such a large number of educational faculties is to provide theprimary and secondary schools opened continuously in the republic, with teachers, and to gradually reduce the foreign teachers used to teach at these schools. (p. 6)

As far as English language education at Aden University is concerned, English is taught as a major course for diploma and bachelor degrees in the faculties of education, faculty of art, and faculty of languages. It is also taught for a master’s degree in applied linguistics in the faculty of Education - Aden, and M.A. degree in Translation in Abdullah Fadhel’s center for translation studies and recently in the faculty of languages. In the faculties of education, the medium of instruction is Arabic for all the departments except the departments of English where English is used as a medium of instruction for the teaching of the subjects related to English language and literature while Arabic medium is used for the teaching of non-English subjects, such as psychology, Arabic, Islamic culture and some other educational subjects.

The focus of the EFL teaching programs provided by the faculties of education is on the language macro skills, grammar, linguistics, literature, EFL teaching, and education. These programs aim at achieving the following objectives as prescribed in the syllabi:

1- To give students a good knowledge of English; it particularly aims at improving their skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
2- To train them in the art of the pedagogy of English, specifically at the school level.
3- To raise their awareness to what constitutes a principled approach to learning and teaching a foreign language.
4- To improve and extend their range of grammatical competence.
5- To equip them with the knowledge and understanding of how language works by offering them relevant courses in linguistics.
6- To sharpen their understanding of the contrast between English and Arabic, particularly with a view to helping them with translation from one language into another.
7- To foster literary appreciation to enable them comprehend literary discourse in English.
8- To promote an attitude that will enable them appreciate the role of English as an international language. (English curriculum, 2009, p. 2).

For achieving the above-mentioned objectives, several subjects were prescribed in language skills, grammar, linguistics, literature, and pedagogy as shown in the table 1.1 below:

Table 1.1. B.A. & Ed. Syllabi, faculties of education, University of Aden (English

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1.4. Statement of the Problem

As mentioned earlier, the faculties of education prepare the teachers of English for both the primary and secondary schools in Yemen. There are a four-year program (Bachelor of Art & education, major of English) and a two-year program (Diploma of art & education, major of English). The four-year program prepares the teachers for both the primary and secondary stages while the two-year diploma program prepares teachers for the primary stage. The students of these four-year EFL undergraduate programs are supposed to graduate with English knowledge and skills that allow them to communicate effectively in English whether orally or in writing. Unfortunately, many of the students from the rural faculties targeted in this study graduate while they are unable to communicate orally in English. I have noticed their spoken communication breakdowns or inability to communicate during my work in supervising the performance of the students in their teaching practicum and from my experience as an instructor in one of these faculties in addition to my contact with many students who graduated from these concerned faculties. To add to this, many schoolmasters and senior EFL teachers complain that many of the students sent from these rural faculties to their schools for teaching practicum are poorly speaking English or cannot speak it at all. This indicates that there are some serious problems that those students encounter while communicating orally in English which lead to their spoken communication breakdowns. These problems generally reflect their insufficient spoken communication proficiency attained through their learning in the concerned EFL programs. As they spend years learning English and graduate with this low spoken proficiency level, this indicates that some factors contribute negatively to students’ acquisition of spoken English which should be investigated and overcome. Hence, this study was designed to diagnose this situation and suggest improvement solutions. It attempts to identify the problematic areas within the fourth- year EFL students’ spoken communication proficiency as the fourth-year students have already taken most of the courses prescribed for these EFL programs and they are supposed to have mastered a good level of spoken and written English. It also investigates deeply, in its main part, the various factors that might contribute to the fourth-year EFL students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency to reach some solutions and suggestions that may serve as remedial action for changing the current situation and enabling the concerned faculties to produce proficient speakers of English.

1.5. Aims of the Study

This study aimed at investigating why many of the EFL students of the rural faculties of Aden University graduate while they are unable to interact orally in English. It attempted to achieve the following objectives:

- To identify the main problems that Aden University fourth-year EFL students of the rural faculties encounter when they communicate orally in English.
- To investigate the main factors that might negatively contribute to Aden University fourth-year EFL students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency.
- To suggest some strategies and solutions that may help as a remedial action to enable the concerned faculties to produce proficient speakers of English.

1.6. Questions of the Study

This research study aimed at answering this major question “why do many of the EFL students of the education rural faculties affiliated to Aden University graduate while they are unable to communicate orally in English?. To get a clear picture of the problem and suggest some solutions for solving it, this major question was divided into the following sub-questions:

- What are the main problems that the fourth-year Aden University EFL students of the rural faculties encounter when communicating orally in English with teachers, classmates, and friends?
- What are the factors that might negatively contribute to the concerned students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency?
- What are the possible strategies and solutions that may help the concerned faculties to change the current situation and produce more proficient speakers of English?

1.7. Hypotheses of the Study

Research hypotheses are used in research to narrow the directions of the study and give some predictions of the outcomes. In other words, they are used to “guide the researcher by delimiting the area of research and to keep him on the right track. It sharpens his thinking and focuses attention on the more important facets of the problem” (Kothari, 2004, p. 13). In this regard, Dornyei (2007) also argued that:

Sometimes, when we have a hunch or a learned guess about the possible results of our planned investigation, we can narrow down the research purpose into actual 'research hypotheses' instead of, or beside, questions. These hypotheses are statements that formulate specific predictions about the outcomes and the empirical results will either confirm or refute these. (p. 73).

Macky and Gass (2015, p. 19) also argued that the problem of the research is expressed through research questions and/or hypotheses and those hypotheses are used based on what the researcher expects the results to be. These expectations usually come from what previous literature suggests and from the researcher’s self­observations. To this end, the researcher had drawn the following hypotheses based on his experience in this field, his reading of the previous literature, and the preparatory investigations he had with some of the concerned students to facilitate and narrow down his investigation for answers to the first two questions of the study:

Hi: The majority of the concerned fourth-year EFL students of the rural faculties of Aden University encounter difficulties in their oral communication which belong to one or more aspects of their spoken communication proficiency; such as, fluency and automaticity difficulties, pronunciation difficulties, comprehension difficulties, lack of communication strategies, lack of sociocultural knowledge, lack of discourse knowledge, and lack of lexical and grammatical knowledge.

H2: Fluency and automaticity related difficulties can be viewed as the major problem for the majority of the students.

H3: There are affective difficulties that some fourth-year EFL students still encounter when communicating orally in English and lead to their communication breakdowns.

H4: There are various factors that might negatively contribute to the fourth-year EFL students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency during their undergraduate program, such as:

- Students’ lack of motivation and attitudes towards English and its learning.
- Students’ lack of learning strategies.
- Students’ language anxiety and shyness.
- Teachers’ perceptions of spoken skills.
- Traditional teaching settings.
- Lack of exposure to English and its culture.
- Students’ past experience with English.
- The syllabi prescribed for English programs of these faculties

1.8. Significance of the Research

This study is significant due to the great contribution it provides in diagnosing the hypothesized problem and reaching some solutions that will help in changing the current situation in the concerned faculties and enabling their EFL programs to enhance students’ spoken communication proficiency. Spoken communication proficiency in English is one of the primary goals for the teaching and learning of English and if students fail to speak English fluently by the time of their graduation, it means that some obstacles have interrupted their acquisition which should be investigated and overcome.

Since many of the concerned EFL students of the faculties of education, located in rural areas, graduate while they are unable to use English for spoken communication, there is a significant need to investigate what those students lack to communicate and why they still lack their spoken communication proficiency after several years of learning English. Hence, this study was designed to diagnose the problem and identify its causes properly and accurately to reach its main goal represented by suggesting some remedial action that may help in changing the current situation and enabling the concerned faculties to produce proficient speakers of English. The researcher believes that this study is unique and distinguished in the field of English language education within the context of these rural faculties of Aden University. Some studies have investigated other skills of Aden University students like writing, reading, grammar...etc (Abdulkawi, 2011; Dulul, 2012; Sa’ad, 2015; Qaid, 2007) but spoken skills have not got their due space in research. Thus, it is the duty of this study to delve into spoken communication proficiency of the concerned students and its related issues to provide a comprehensive picture of students’ difficulties in spoken communication, the factors contributing to their low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency and then to suggest remedial action that will help in changing the current situation in the concerned faculties and enabling these EFL programs to enhance their students’ spoken communication proficiency. The results of this study will be significant for the authorities of these rural faculties, its syllabi designers, EFL teachers and students.

1.9. Research Design

This study employed a mixed-method approach in its data collection and analysis. It used various data collection instruments, namely students’ questionnaire, teachers’ questionnaire, students’ interviews, students’ spoken communication proficiency assessment rubric, speaking skill teachers’ interviews, assessment of speaking syllabi, and classroom observations to collect quantitative and qualitative data concerning the problem of this research. The data collection instruments were well prepared and assessed for their validity and reliability. The students' questionnaire targeted 120 fourth-year EFL students of the rural faculties of Radfan, Al-Dhala, and Toor Al-Baha while the teachers’ questionnaire targeted 23 EFL teachers of the same concerned faculties. Students’ interviews were held with 30 students and the spoken proficiency assessment rubric targeted 42 fourth-year EFL students. Four speaking teachers were interviewed and six speaking classes were observed. The collected data were then analyzed by using the SPSS 21st version and manually. Several procedures were conducted via SPSS such as frequencies, means, Cronbach's Alpha reliability, comparison of means (cross-tabulations), and correlation significance (p. value). Detailed information about the research design is to be given in the third chapter of this thesis.

1.10. Scope and Limitations of the Study

This research study is limited to the English departments of Aden University, faculties of education located in rural areas. It targeted the fourth-year students of these departments during the academic year 2017/2018 and dealt mainly with their spoken communication proficiency and the factors that might contribute to their low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency in English. It targeted three faculties of education from the total rural faculties which are six faculties. The targeted faculties are Radfan, AL-Dhala, and Toor AL-Baha. However, the study has its delimitations which can be summed up in the following lines:

- The study did not extend its coverage to include all the education faculties of Aden University but took only three faculties as a representative sample for the rural faculties.
- The study did not include written communication skills in its investigations.
- The study aimed at identifying the problematic aspects (points of weakness) in students’ spoken communication proficiency and it did not analyze students’ errors as usually done in error analysis studies.
- The researcher could not conduct a spoken communication proficiency test for the students to assess their spoken communication proficiency as the majority of the students were not willing to participate in spoken English tests due to their poor spoken communication proficiency and the limited time of their availability in their faculties.

1.11. Definitions of the Main Terms of the Study

This section provides brief definitions for some terms used in this study to help readers get their meanings within the context of this study.

Spoken Communication: refers to the process of oral interaction. That is, the process by which a speaker conveys a message orally to a listener and gets a listener’s response. There are several types of spoken communication such as face-to-face conversation, phone call communication, classroom presentation, delivering a speech ...etc. In this present research, it is used with a reference to face-to-face interaction and classroom presentation.

Spoken Communication Problems: refers to the main difficulties that EFL students of the concerned faculties encounter while interacting orally in English with their teachers, classmates, friends, and which lead to their communication breakdowns. In other words, they refer to some problematic or poor areas within students’ spoken communication proficiency.

Causes and Solution: The term ‘ causes ’ refers to the reasons behind the presence of students’ difficulties at the time of their graduation and after several years of their learning of English; that is, the factors that might negatively contribute to the concerned EFL students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency. While the term ‘ solutions ’ refers to the remedial action that the research will suggest at the end of the study to help the concerned faculties change the current situation and produce more proficient speakers of English.

EFL Undergraduate students: This term is used in this study to refer to the Yemeni students who study EFL for the B.A. and Ed. degree in the faculties of education Radfan, Al-Dhala and Toor Al-Baha. The terms “students”, “student-teachers" and “learners” are used interchangeably throughout this study to refer to the concerned students of these three faculties.

Faculties of education: refers to ‘‘Kuliyat Attarbiah’’ educational branches of Aden University; each of which includes a group of departments specialized in providing teachers for the various subjects taught in the Yemeni primary and secondary schools, such as Arabic, English chemistry, mathematics, ...etc.

Aden University: is a scientific teaching and learning academy situated in Aden city and comprises several colleges/faculties of Education, Science, Arts and Commerce located in various governorates of South Yemen.

1.12. Outline of the Study

This study runs in five chapters as follows:

Chapter One: General Introduction

This chapter introduces the topic of the study and shows how spoken communication proficiency has become the main goal of language learning. It comments on the global status of the English language today as well as its status in the context of this study. Then, it highlights the problem of the study, its objectives, questions, and hypotheses. It also provides a summary of the research methodology and the limitations of the study. The chapter ends by defining the main terms of the study and presenting the outline of its chapters.

Chapter Two: Literature Review

This chapter provides a theoretical background of the study. It surveys briefly the literature related to spoken communication proficiency, communicative competence, language learning theories, the factors affecting language learning, and some perspectives on classroom communication. It also provides shorts notes on the most common language teaching methods, focusing on how the oral skills were given a place in these methods. The last section of this chapter is devoted to surveying some previous studies related to the topic of this study.

Chapter Three: Research Design

This chapter presents a detailed description of the research design of the present research study to show how it was conducted. It goes through each data collection instrument, showing how it was prepared, checked for its validity and reliability, and then administered. It also shows the sampling method used in this study and the statistical tools used in analyzing the collected data. In other words, this chapter aims at providing detailed information about the research design in a way that convinces the readers that the results reported through this study have been scientifically obtained and can be considered reliable and trustworthy.

Chapter Four: Data Analysis and Discussion

In this chapter, the data collected through the various instruments of the study are to be presented and interpreted. Tables and figures will be drawn to show the results with some comments and analysis. The chapter discusses the results of this study to highlight the major outcomes it has reached to and to compare it with some previous studies and theories in this field.

Chapter Five: Conclusion and Recommendations

This chapter provides the research major findings presented and discussed in the fourth chapter. It presents the main difficulties the concerned students encounter when communicating orally as well as the major factors that have negatively contributed to students’ low acquisition of spoken communication proficiency. In other words, it responds scientifically, based on the results obtained, to the questions of the study. The last section of this chapter presents some solutions and recommendations that may help the concerned faculties in changing the current situation and producing more proficient speakers of English in the future.

Chapter Two


“If the practice of teaching were completely divorced from theory, it would merely be random activity” - Littlewood (1981, p. x)

2.0. Introduction

This chapter surveys the literature related to spoken communication proficiency as having a solid theoretical background of a research topic is a key step towards designing a scientific study and reaching logical and accurate results. The chapter runs in nine sections each of which addresses a particular theme related to the topic of the study. The first section surveys definitions of communication, its elements and types and the second section delves more deeply into spoken communication skills: speaking and listening. The third section introduces the term ‘communicative competence’, illustrating its main components and presenting some of its most common models. The fourth section introduces a model for spoken communication proficiency which will be used as a framework for this study. The fifth section is dedicated to surveying foreign and second language learning theories while the sixth section deals with some common factors affecting oral proficiency acquisition. The seventh section presents some views on spoken communication in classroom and how teachers can make their classrooms more communicative. The eighth section presents a brief history of language teaching methodology with a focus on how spoken skills were given attention in each of these methods. The chapter ends with its ninth section which surveys briefly some previous studies related to spoken communication proficiency and the factors affecting EFL students’ acquisition of speaking proficiency.

2.1. What is Communication?

Communication, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is “the act of communicating with people” or “the exchange of information and the expression of feeling that can result in understanding”. It is “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium” (Oxford English and Spanish Dictionary). It refers to an exchange of meaning between two or more persons and it should result in understanding. Understanding is usually known through a response i.e. a feedback given by the listener. Canale (1983) defined communication as “the exchange and negotiation of information between at least two individuals through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, oral and written/visual modes, and production and comprehension processes” (p. 4). Ellis and Beattie (1986) also pointed out that “communication occurs when one organism (transmitter) encodes information into a signal which passes to another organism (receiver) who decodes the signal and is capable of responding appropriately” (p. 3). Prior to this, Riley (1985) defined communication as “a process whereby we create, negotiate, and interpret meaning” (p. 1).

Byrne (1976) and Harmer (1982) viewed oral communication as a process by which a speaker encodes a message through oral signs and then a listener decodes it to get its meaning, and this also occurs in writing where a writer encodes a message through written signs and then a reader decodes it to get its meaning. The success of communication is usually measured by the feedback which is considered as a part of the communication process.

Chadha (2003) argued that the term ‘communication’ was derived from the Latin word ‘communicare’ which means ‘to impart’, ‘to share’ and ‘to make common’. It can be viewed as the “transfer of information from one individual or organization to another” (p. 1). Chadha also quoted Peter Little’s definition of communication as “the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and/ or organizations so that an understanding response results” (p. 1).

From the above-mentioned definitions, it can be concluded that communication is a process by which meaning is transmitted from one person to another or exchanged among two or more people. It can be a one-way process where a person sends information while others receive it as in delivering a speech through radio, or a two-way process as in greeting people or any other face to face interaction where the feedback is a very crucial part of the communication process as it shows whether the message has passed or not.

2.1.1. Elements of Communication Process

Communication process comprises several elements, namely: a sender ‘the person who sends a message’, a receiver ‘the person who receives the message’, a message ‘the intended meaning encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver’, a feedback ‘the response of the receiver which indicates that s/he has understood the message’, and a medium ‘the channel of communication whether oral, written or nonverbal’ (see fig. 2.1).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Based on the figure 2.1 above, one can understand that communication always involves a message to be conveyed between/among two or more persons and it includes both being able to convey the message and to understand the response. Communication is said to be effective when the communicator can get his messages across and understand the feedback given by his interlocutor. If the process encounters a problem like a listener does not understand the message or a speaker does not manage to put his message into a clear and intelligible language, the communication will fail.

2.1.2. Types of Communication

As mentioned above, communication is a process of conveying or exchanging ideas or information. Such a process of exchanging views and ideas can be performed via language and sometimes without language. From this fact, one comes to know that two types of communication are there, namely verbal communication and non-verbal communication. In the next sub-sections, short notes are to be given about non-verbal communication, and then it surveys types of verbal communication, with giving more attention to spoken communication and spoken communication skills. Non-verbal Communication

Communication does not merely exist through language because people can also communicate without language. A baby cries when he needs milk and a dumb communicates with people around him by acting. Even when we communicate orally, non-verbal communication plays a huge role in conveying meanings, making messages more understandable, and getting feedback (Barrett, 1973; Brown, 2000; Cummings, 2011). The non-verbal communication has been viewed by some researchers as equally important as the verbal one while some others argued for its supremacy (Laitinen, 2011, p. 13). Some studies, according to Hismanoglu and Hismanoglu (2008, p. 166), have shown that 93% of our interpersonal communication is non-verbal while only 7% is left for verbal communication through actual words. To be more specific, 38% is vocal nonverbal signals such as pitch, speed and volume of one’s voice and 55% of communication is visual such as body language and eye contact. They also referred to a study by Professor Birdwhistell that made some estimates concerning the amount of nonverbal communication which took place among people he observed in an eye-to-eye conversation where he found that less than 35% of the communication was verbal while over than 65% was established in a nonverbal way (Hismanoglu & Hismanoglu, 2008, p. 166). Though these findings may not be accurate to generalize, non-verbal communication remains a crucial part of our communication.

Non-verbal communication does not merely help in conveying meaning but it also helps in language learning since teachers and learners sometimes need to use non-verbal signs in their foreign language teaching and learning. In this regard, Hismanoglu and Hismanoglu (2008) referred to Marwijk’s (2002) argument for the value of using non-verbal language in foreign language classroom to help learners compensate for their inadequacy of vocabulary and increase their motivation to interact regardless of their poor language proficiency (pp. 173-174). Verbal Communication

To understand what the term ‘verbal communication’ means, one has to understand the two words it comprises. The word verbal according to Oxford English and Spanish Dictionary means “relating to word” or “in the form of words” while the term communication means “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium”. Thus, verbal communication refers to the process of the imparting or exchanging information via words. In other words, it refers to communication via languages. Verbal communication is sometimes contrasted with written communication as it looks as more spoken than written one. However, as we defined verbal communication as the exchange of information and ideas via words, it should include both spoken words and written words. Hence, verbal communication can be of two types, namely a. written communication and b. spoken communication. Written Communication

Written communication refers to the process of conveying or exchanging messages through written words. In this type of communication, two persons or more are involved: a writer and a reader or readers. The writer writes a message encoding its meaning in written words and then the reader reads and understands the explicit and implicit meanings encoded in the written message, and he may respond. This communication can be difficult as communicators are far from each other and no non­verbal signs can help in conveying meaning other than the written words. It is the most common type of communication in the world of business because it is more formal, accurate and documented. It includes all written forms of communication such as letters, circulars, memorandums, notices, mails... etc (Chadha, 2003, pp. 3-4). Spoken Communication

Spoken communication is also called oral communication. It is “a two way process between the speaker and the listener and involves the production skill of speaking and the receptive skill of understanding” (Byrne, 1986, p. 8). It refers to the process of sharing ideas, information, beliefs...etc through spoken words and it includes all uses of oral language such as face-to-face communication, interviews, classroom presentations, meetings, telephone calls, social media calls, group discussions, public speeches... etc (Chadha, 2003, p. 5 ). It usually involves both speaking and listening skills with some other underlying competencies and not merely refers to the production part of the spoken language (Byrne 1986; Murphy 1991, Stabb, 1992). In this regard, Murno (2011) argued that oral language is about communicating by using spoken words and it is about speaking and listening; i.e. speech production and comprehension. He argued that:

Oral language includes what we know about spoken words, what they mean and how to use them to understand and think about our world. It is not only what we and others say. It is what we know in our heads about the language, about how people generally say things and how they use language. (p.2)

These two skills are crucially significant because they take the major part of our daily communication. Martin (1987) highlighted that “research studies indicate that of the total time devoted to communication, 45 percent is spent in listening, 30 percent in speaking, 16 percent in reading, and 9 percent in writing” (p. 2). Spoken communication process usually involves these two macro skills and their underlying competencies as will be shown later on in the next sections. All these skills and competencies work together to let the person communicate successfully. The CEFR (2001, p. 90) as cited in Kuivamäki (2015) referred to an integration of the following skills in any successful oral communication:

- Plan and organize a message (cognitive skills);
- Formulate a linguistic utterance (linguistic skills);
- Articulate the utterance (phonetic skills).
- Perceive the utterance (auditory phonetic skills);
- Identify the linguistic message (linguistic skills);
- Understand the message (semantic skills);
- Interpret the message (cognitive skills). (p.11)

From the above-mentioned discussion, it seems that there are several skills and competencies that a learner has to develop to be able to communicate orally. These skills and competencies are to be discussed in more details in the next sections.

2.2. Spoken Communication Skills

As mentioned earlier, there are two major macro skills in spoken communication, namely speaking skill and listening skill. These two skills are integrated with some other underlying competencies to comprise spoken communication proficiency.

2.2.1. Speaking skill

According to Ur (1996) “of all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), speaking seems intuitively the most important” and “people who know a language are referred to as ‘speakers’ of that language” (p.120). She also argued that speaking skill is the most significant skill because most learners if not all want to be able to speak the target language they learn. In this regard, Nunan (1991) and Lazaraton (2001) also highlighted the importance of the speaking skill and compared its acquisition to language acquisition.

Speaking as a skill is an umbrella that underlies several sub-skills and competencies. According to Nunan (1999) and Shumin (2002), the various components of the communicative competence such as linguistic competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence are viewed as abilities underlying speaking proficiency. It is for this reason that mastering the speaking skill can be compared to mastering the language as we usually talk about the oral form of the language when talking about the speaking skill. However, speaking can be differentiated from writing in some aspects of its underlying features as speakers usually have some flexibility in using language in comparison to written language that most often seems to be formal. Brown and Yule (1983), as cited in Nunan (1989, pp. 26-27), referred to such a distinction between written language and spoken language by arguing that writing is “characterized by well-formed sentences which are integrated into highly structured paragraphs” while speaking “consists of short, often fragmentary utterances, in a range of pronunciation”. Spoken utterances, according to them, are organised in a loosely syntax with the use of non-specific references and time fillers such as “well” “oh” “what I mean” ...etc.

Nunan (1989) viewed speaking as one of the language four skills that is interactive in nature and referred to two types of speaking skills ‘monologue’ and ‘dialogue’. He argued that “the ability to give an uninterrupted oral presentation is quite distinct from interacting with one or more other speakers for transactional and interactional purposes” (27). He highlighted that while all native speakers can use language for interaction, only few who can deliver a speech to a group of listeners because such a skill requires some special training and practices. He also cited Brown and Yule’s (1983) argument that most language teaching is concerned with developing speaking skills in short interactional exchanges.

... the teacher should realise that simply training the student to produce short turns will not automatically yield a student who can perform satisfactorily in long turns. It is currently fashionable in language teaching to pay particular attention to the forms and functions of short turns. ... it must surely be clear that students who are only capable of producing short turns are going to experience a lot of frustration when they try to speak the foreign language. (as cited in Nunan, 1989, p. 28)

When talking about speaking, one very important issue that we have to think about is the fluency and automaticity in producing and understanding utterances. Speaking, in opposite to writing, takes place under the pressure of time as speakers do not have much time, as in writing, to think about what they want to say and to retrieve the language required. Fluency in speaking can be defined as the ability to retrieve and use the language system automatically while interacting. Crystal (1987) defined fluency as the “smooth, rapid, effortless use of language” which means using language easily and quickly without pauses. Chambers (1997) argued that fluency is dependent on automaticity; i.e. learner’s fluency is affected by how automatically s/he can retrieve his/her language in oral communication. On the other hand, some other scholars viewed fluency in a broader way as speaking proficiency itself. Fluency, according to Leeson (1975), is “the ability of the speaker to produce indefinitely many sentences conforming to the phonological, syntactical, and semantic exigencies of a given natural language” (136). To this end, Fillmore (1979, p. 93) suggested four features of speaker’s fluency:

- The ability to fill time with talk,
- The ability to talk in coherent, reasoned and semantically dense sentences,
- The ability to have appropriate things to say in a wide range of contexts ’
- The ability to be creative and imaginative in language use. (p. 93) Widdowson’s View of Speaking

Widdowson (1978) argued that speaking is one of the language four skills that learners need to acquire. It is a productive and active skill. He discussed speaking skill in terms of usage and use. Speaking as ‘usage’ refers to speaker’s “overt manifestation of the phonological and grammatical features of a language by means of vocal organs, then of course, it must be uniquely associated with the aural medium” while speaking as ‘use’ refers to speaker’s communicative activity or communicative function (p. 59). In usage, speaking is only a manifestation of language in oral production while in use speaking or in his words “talking” refers to the realization of speaker’s language in interaction. It includes both production and reception as well as oral and visual mediums such as body language. Here, speaking is viewed not merely as a productive and aural skill but receptive and visual as well. What can be received, according to Widdowson, as a productive and aural skill is speaking as usage only which represents learner’s manifestation of grammatical and phonological features of a language in its oral form. See fig. 2.2 below:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 2.2. Widdowson’s view of speaking (p. 59) Bygate’s View of Speaking

According to Bygate (1987), a speaker needs two things to achieve a communicative goal through spoken communication, namely knowledge of language and a skill to use such knowledge in various situations. These two aspects are viewed as the primary aspects of speaking proficiency. Having merely language knowledge is not sufficient for communicating unless a learner is able to use such knowledge smoothly in various situations. He added:

We do not merely know how to assemble sentences in the abstract: we have to produce them and adapt to the circumstances. This means making decisions rapidly, implementing them smoothly, and adjusting our conversation as unexpected problems appear in our path. (p. 3)

The researcher hereby agrees with Bygate that merely having linguistic knowledge is not sufficient for communication since spoken communication requires both language knowledge and the skills to restore and use such knowledge in various contexts. Bygate also made a distinction between ‘knowledge’ and ‘skill’ by saying that while they “both can be understood and memorized, only a skill can be imitated and practiced” (p. 4). He argued that speaking skill consists of two aspects: motor- perceptive skills and interaction skills. The motor-perceptive skills refer to the correct use of language knowledge such as structures and sounds which are context-free kind of skills and are usually developed through classroom practice and drills. These motor perceptive skills can be similar to the ‘usage" in Widdowson’s terms. On the other hand, the interaction skills involve using the motor-perceptive skills for communication purposes (p. 5-6).


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Spoken Communication Problems of Aden University EFL Undergraduate Students. Causes and Solutions
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University
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Spoken communication skills, speaking skill, listening skill, teaching English as a foreign language, TEFL, EFL, English as a foreign language
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Dr. Sabri Thabit Saleh Ahmed (Author), 2021, Spoken Communication Problems of Aden University EFL Undergraduate Students. Causes and Solutions, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1319197


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