TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF ACCRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
LIST OF TABLES
CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.1 Context and justification of the study
1.2 Statement of the problem
1.3 Formulation of research questions
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Scope and limitation of the study
CHAPTER TWO: THEORETICAL ISSUES AND RELATED LITERATURE
2.1 Definition of key concepts
2.1.2 Language systems
2.1.3 English pronunciation pedagogy
2.1.4 English as a Foreign Language
2.2 Review of studies relevant to the topic
2.2.1 English Language Teaching Pedagogy
2.2.2 Development of student teachers’ competences
2.2.3 Language system teaching pedagogy
2.2.4 English Pronunciation Pedagogy
2.3 Theories related to the topic
2.3.1 Vygotsky (1978) and Socio-constructivism
2.3.2 Krashen’s 1994 scaffolding theory of Second Language Acquisition
2.3.3 The theory of didactic intervention
2.4 Selecting variables
2.4.1 The independent variable
2.4.2 The dependent variable
2.4.3 Summary table
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
3.1 Type of research
3.2 Place of the study
3.3 Population of the study
3.3.1 Parent population
3.3.2 Target population
3.3.3 The accessible population
3.4 Sample and sampling technique
3.4.2 Sampling techniques
3.5 Data collection instruments
3.5.1 Lesson observation
3.5.2 Construction and validation of student teachers’ lesson observation guide
3.5.3 Manner and place of student teachers’ observation
3.6 Document analysis
3.6.1 Reading checklist for trainers’ logbooks
3.6.2 Manner and place of using the reading checklists for logbooks
3.6.3 Reading checklist for student teachers
3.6.4 How and where the reading checklist for lesson notes was exploited
3.7 Validation of the tool(s)
3.8 Data analysis method
3.8.1 Choice and justification of a data analysis method: Content analysis
CHAPTER FOUR: PRESENTATION AND ANALYSIS OF DATA
4.1 Descriptive presentation of data
4.1.1 General overview of data revealed through the study of logbooks
4.1.2 Frequency of EFL pronunciation pedagogy lessons taught by teacher trainers
4.1.3 “English Didactics” course outline and scheme of work contents
4.1.4 Methods and techniques in teaching EFL pronunciation activities
4.2 General overview of data from the analysis of trainees’ lesson notes
4.2.1 Frequency of trainees’ lessons on EFL pronunciation activities
4.2.2 Preamble of final year trainees’ lesson notes on EFL pronunciation activities
4.2.3 Progression of trainees’ lessons
4.2.4 Trainees’ teaching techniques and classroom tasks
4.3 General overview of findings from student teachers’ lessons
CHAPTER FIVE: INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS AND PROFESSIONAL IMPLICATIONS
5.1 Interpretation of results
5.1.1 Teaching EFL pronunciation at GBTTC Nlongkak: State of the art
5.1.2 Frequency of EFL pronunciation lessons pedagogy and trainees’ competences
5.1.3 Activities of the oral domain of language and trainees competences
5.1.4 EFL pronunciation teaching: techniques and methods
5.1.5 Student teachers’ competences in planning lessons on activities of the domain of oral language
5.1.6 Lesson frequency on activities of the oral of oral language
5.1.7 Final year students’ competences in designing preamble of lesson notes
5.1.8 Student teachers’ competences and progression in lesson notes
5.1.9 Trainees’ competences and teaching techniques and classroom tasks
5.1.10 Lessons observed during micro teaching and competences of trainees
To all my family members, especially My late father, Alexis Kontcheu, My lovely mother, Victorine Tomta, My wife, Christelle Hendji, And My kids, Hilary Erica and Nathanael Harry.
I am indebted to my lecturers, as well as to other people who encouraged me during this challenging research project. I pay special tribute to my supervisor, Prof. Aloysius Ngefac, whose remarks and contributions significantly shaped this work. I also wish to acknowledge the insightful contributions of Prof. René Solange Nkeck Bidias, Head of Department of Didactics, University of Yaounde I, who personally gave me some research tips and shared some documentation for the smooth conduct of the study. My appreciation also goes to all my lecturers of the Department of Didactics who groomed me on research methodology in education and theories and practices in English Language Teaching. Some of these lecturers include Dr. Wamba and Dr. Dje Dje, Mr. Mbahyong, Prof. Epoge, Dr. Banga and Mr. Mbeh.
In addition, I wish to acknowledge the contributions of colleagues. Mr. Tosam cannot be thanked enough for all the facilities he put at my disposal at General Bilingual Teacher Training College Yaounde – Nlongkak. He introduced me to the school director and linked meto student teachers. He also offered me his office when I was collecting data. I am also indebted to Mr. Belibi for orientating and encouraging me, whenever I faced some challenges. I equally thank him for proofreading this work.
Special thanks go to the teacher trainers and student teachers of General Bilingual Teacher Training College Yaounde – Nlongkak. They willingly gave me their lesson notes and teacher trainers allowed me to observe some lessons during micro-teaching. Without their invaluable contributions, I would not have gathered enough data for the study.
I cannot end without expressing my heart-felt gratitude to my classmates and to my lovely family. With regard to my classmates, I am indebted to Edith and Vivian whose relentless encouragements and comments guided me throughout the tedious process of writing the work.
As concerns my lovely family, I heartily appreciate their moral support. They include my brothers, Sévérin Kontcheutchou, Paul René Wotchui, Jean Bernard Mbouwé, David Kamgue, and Georges Ngoubayou, and my sisters, Euphrasie Chamessi and Yolande Leukeu. I am also grateful to all whose names do not feature here due to space constraint, but who helped me to carry out this project.
LIST OF ACCRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
3e : Troisième
Bacc. : Baccalauréat
BEPC : Brevet d’Etudes du Premier Cycle
CBA: Competence-based Approach
DM: Direct Method
EAASAESA: Engage Activate Activate Study Activate Engage Study Activate
EASA: Engage Activate Study Activate
EFL: English as a Foreign language
ELT: English Language Teaching
ENIEG: École Normale des Instituteurs de l’Enseignement Général
ESA: Engage Study Activate
ESL: English as a Second Language
GBTTC: General Bilingual Teacher Training College
GT: Grammar Translation
GTM: Grammar Translation Method
GTTC: General Teacher Training College
HTTC: Higher Teacher Training College
IPA: International Phonetic Alphabet
L2: Second Language
MEI: Model of Educational Intervention
NPA: New Pedagogic Approach
PPP: Presentation Production Practice
Probat. : Probatoire
SLA : Second Language Acquisition
SMS: Slow Motion Speaking
STr: Student Teacher
TBL: Task-based Learning
TTC: Teacher Training College
UK: United Kingdom
US: United States
ZAD: Zone of Actual Development
ZDP: Zone of Proximal Development
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Summary table of the research topic
Table 2: The informants of the study: teacher trainers
Table 3: Informants of the study: student teachers
Table 4: Presentation of categories and sub-categories of the dependent variable
Table 5: Participants in lesson observation and lessons observed
Table 6: Categories and sub categories of the independent variable for log books analysis
Table 7: Distribution of logbooks studied at GBTTC Nlongkak
Table 8: Reading checklist for lesson notes analysis
Table 9: Distribution of student teachers’ lesson preparation booklets analysed
Table 10: Frequency of lessons on EFL pronunciation teaching within two academic years
Table 11: Design of didactics of English scheme of work in relation to activities of the oral domain of language / EFL pronunciation pedagogy
Table 12: Trainers’ methods and techniques
Table 13: Frequency of lessons on EFL pronunciation prepared by final-year trainees
Table 14: Preamble of lesson notes of EFL pronunciation lessons presented
Table 15: Progression of lessons on EFL pronunciation activities by final year students
Table 16: Teaching techniques and styles identified in student teachers’ lesson notes
Table 17: Results of lessons observed during micro teaching of EFL pronunciation activities
This work set out to investigate English language teaching in General Teacher Training Colleges (GTTCs) with focus on strategies that can enhance trainees’ oral competences in the teaching of oral aspects of English during micro-teaching and beyond. The study was motivated by our observation that pronunciation is hardly taught in primary schools in the Francophone sub-system of education in Cameroon. It was hypothesized that the initial training received by French-speaking student teachers in Government Bilingual Teacher Training (GBTTC) College Nlongkak does not equip them with adequate skills to teach English pronunciation activities effectively. The data for this qualitative study was collected through lesson observation and document analysis. The typical sampling method was applied in order to come up with the sample population. This population consisted of trainers and trainees of GBTTC Yaounde - Nlongkak. The data collected were analysed following the content analysis method and against the backdrop of the research questions that guided the study. The following findings were obtained. First, the frequency of lessons on English pronunciation pedagogy was not the same in all classes. Second, schemes of work found in most logbooks studied pay little attention to the oral aspects of English. Third, methods and techniques that trainers used to teach English pronunciation pedagogy were not informed by current methodologies in pronunciation pedagogy. Fourth, it was revealed that most trainees taught very few lessons in the domain of oral language. Fifth, most of the trainees had difficulties preparing lessons on English pronunciation according to the exigencies of the Competence Based Approach. Sixth, all student teachers showed no mastery of the subject matter and the teaching of the oral domain of English Language during micro-teaching. These findings imply that the input received by trainees does not build their competences in teaching activities of the domain of oral language. It is therefore suggested that initial training of teacher trainers at GTTC should be revisited. School administrators, policy makers, trainers, and trainees should reconsider the importance of teaching activities of the domain of oral language and the building of trainees’ and trainers’ competences.
Keywords: Competences, oral domain of language, pronunciation, pronunciation pedagogy, techniques.
La présente recherche porte sur la relation qui existe entre le cours professionnel « English Didactics » et la construction des compétences chez les élèves maîtres pour enseigner les activités du domaine du langage oral pendant et après la formation initiale à l’Ecole Normale des Instituteurs de l’Enseignement General (ENIEG). Cette étude a été motivée par le constat selon lequel la majorité des enseignants de l’école primaire du sous-système francophone éprouve d’énormes difficultés à enseigner les activités de prononciation à la maternelle et au primaire. L’hypothèse générale qui a guidé cette étude est la suivante : la formation initiale reçue par les élèves maîtres ne permettrait pas la construction des compétences à enseigner les activités du domaine du langage oral. Pour mener à bien cette étude qualitative, l’analyse des documents pédagogiques de deux années académiques et l’observation des leçons ont été réalisées. La population d’étude était constituée de formateurs et de’ élèves maîtres de l’ENIEG Bilingue de Yaoundé – Nlongkak. L’analyse des données a été faite suivant l’analyse des contenus et les thèmes issus des quatre hypothèses retenues pour conduire ces travaux. On est arrivé aa plusieurs résultats. Primo, concernant les formateurs, la fréquence des leçons sur la didactique des activités de prononciation varie selon les classes. Secundo, la majorité des cahiers de texte consultés ont montré que les projets pédagogiques ne présentent pas une bonne description de la didactique des activités de communication orale. Tertio, les méthodes et techniques utilisées par les formateurs ne sont pas en phase avec les innovations récentes en didactique des activités de la prononciation. Ensuite, concernant les élèves maîtres, ces derniers dans leur majorité préparent peu de leçons sur les activités de communication orale. De même, la majorité des formés éprouvent d’énormes difficultés à préparer des leçons inspirées des leçons sur le modèle de l’Approche par Compétences. Enfin, pendant les simulations de leçons, aucun élève- maître n’a été capable de faire montre d’une parfaite maitrise du sujet ni de conduire une leçon modèle. Ces résultats impliquent que le input reçu par les formés ne construit pas les compétences de ces derniers à enseigner les activités du domaine oral du langage. Une batterie de suggestions a été faite à l’endroit des formateurs, des formés, des administrateurs des ENIEG, et des pouvoirs publics. Chacun à son niveau est invité à revoir la place occupée par la didactique des activités de prononciation et la construction des compétences des formateurs et des formés.
Mots clés: compétences, prononciation, didactique de la prononciation de l’Anglais Langue Étrangère, domaine du langage, techniques.
Fraser (2000) states that English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language (henceforth ESL/EFL) teachers need to be offered courses and materials to help them to improve their effectiveness in teaching pronunciation. She maintains that there is also a need for high quality and effective materials, especially computer-based materials with audio demonstrations for learners of ESL/EFL pronunciation, both for self- access and for use in classes where the teacher needs support of this kind. She concludes that research in second language education should not only be concerned with the importance of teaching pronunciation, but with the methodology of teaching it. Both teachers and learners must change roles, and teaching methodologies must change objectives. This observation rightly shows how pronunciation pedagogy has been in the heart of previous investigations. There are many studies that have, in fact, further investigated this domain, ranging from who is most qualified to teach pronunciation (Breitkreutz et al., 2001; Derwing, 2008; and Lippi-Green, 2012); principles for teaching pronunciation (Nunan (ed.), 2003); methods and techniques in teaching pronunciation ( Kanellou, 2011; Liang, 2003; Field, 2005; and Walker, 2010) to difficulties in teaching pronunciation in teacher training schools in particular and in primary and secondary schools in general (Megne, 2015; kanellou, 2011;; Foote et al., 2011; Breitkreutz et al., 2001; Burges & Spencer, 2000; Fraser, 2000; and Walker, 1999).
It is against this backdrop of current trends in pronunciation pedagogy that the syllabus for the course, entitled “English Didactics”, was designed to prescribe the way pronunciation in General Teacher Training Colleges (GTTC) in Cameroon should be taught. This vision to ensure quality teaching of English Language in general and pronunciation in particular has been reinforced by the implementation of the bilingualism policy that resulted from the reunification of 1961 and the fostering of national unity in 1972 (Medzogo 2012:1, cited in Megne 2015:1).
In a further attempt to emphasize the importance of the English Language in Cameroon, Tchapgnouo (1996:12), cited in Megne (ibid), quotes the ministerial circular no. 31/D/IGP/MINEDUC of January 4, 1975, which states that the two main objectives of English in French-speaking areas are as follows:
First, it is to contribute to the development of bilingual culture in which the majority of citizens are able to express themselves in both English and French and can truly share a common heritage. While the achievement of this goal will foster national unity, it will also prepare Cameroon for a unique role among Anglophone and francophone countries in Africa.
Second, it is to contribute to the young francophone intellectual growth by the acquisition of a language which is significant in the fields of literature, philosophy, science, and technology.
As hinted by Elock (2012:3), the Constitutions of 1961, 1972, 1984, 1996 and the latest modification that occurred in 1998 are enough evidences of the importance of official bilingualism. From this standpoint; bilingualism is one of the cornerstones of Cameroon’s language policy as emphasized in Article 1, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution, which declares that [t]he official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French. Both languages having the same status, the state shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country [...] From this article of the Constitution, it is evident that since English and French are the two official languages, they should be given equal attention and status. This notwithstanding, the status given to English language seems to remain only on paper. When official bilingualism is not so effective within the State apparatus, many promoters of the language namely, teacher-trainers and student teachers are tempted not to teach some language skills and systems. This tendency not to teach such aspects of the language also leads to the student teachers’ inability to teach them. This situation, undoubtedly, has hindered the effective promotion of bilingualism policy that is highly priced in the Constitution of Cameroon. The policy also surfaces in another reference text like the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (2009) (hereafter GESP) which states the vision Cameroon will promote to make her educational system very efficient and professional. The end result of this relegation of English to the background is seen through the falling standards observed during the teaching of some language skills and systems.
In fact, many researchers, especially those in the Western world, have, during the past decades or so, carried out many research works in the domain of education, in order to find out how teachers are trained. These researchers came up with interesting findings that should be considered in the initial training offered in teacher training colleges. In Cameroon, so far, most previous works on the teaching and learning of English have focused on classroom practices in basic and secondary education. According to Tosam (2016), a few studies have been carried out on teacher initial training in Cameroon. Observations have it that many teachers who teach EFL in primary schools face so many difficulties teaching some language skills and systems. Furthermore, those who attempt to teach these systems do so out of their intrinsic motivation. They do not rely on appropriate techniques, methods and approaches established in the existing literature to plan and teach English pronunciation lessons.
Given this type of situation, many actors of the pedagogical chain – teacher trainers, trainees, and pedagogic inspectors – often denounce poor practices that characterise the teaching of some language skills and systems (Megne, 2015). The mastery of such language skills and systems are prerequisites for effective bilingualism, mutual intelligibility, and the effective teaching of English Language (Mbeudeu, 2010).
The general purpose of this study is to investigate English Language Teaching (henceforth ELT) in GTTC and the development of trainees’ competences in teaching aspects of pronunciation in the EFL classroom in basic education of the Francophone sub-system of Cameroon educational system. In an attempt to attain this general objective, we look at many items: the frequency of lessons taught by teams of teachers who handle the course “English Didactics”;, the design of the scheme of work with reference to aspects of the domain of oral language; teaching strategies and classroom tasks used by trainers within the framework of the professional course “English Didactics”. This is done to discover if the input that is provided by trainers to trainees can equip the latter with competences to effectively teach pronunciation during micro-teaching and beyond.
The basic premise underpinning this investigation is that most teachers who graduate from GTTC hardly teach pronunciation lessons in the EFL classroom because their initial training does not equip them with competences to teach oral skills effectively. This main hypothesis is reinforced by a set of hypotheses. Firstly, the selection of the course content does not develop competences to teach pronunciation effectively. Secondly, the methods and techniques used by teacher trainers cannot build trainees’ competences to effectively teach aspects of the domain of oral language. Finally, the frequency of lessons accounts for student teachers’ reluctance to teach lessons of the domain of oral language in nursery and primary schools of the francophone sub-system of education.
During our practicum in primary schools within the Mfoundi Division, we observed that novice primary school teachers lacked competences to teach some language skills and systems. In fact, during several informal discussions with teacher trainers, student teachers, and practising teachers, it was revealed that teachers’ competences do not always match with the expectations on the field once they graduate from training colleges. It was also observed that the professional course “English Didactics” in GTTC was deviating from its traditional purposes and had shifted to an ordinary course. In this connection, the teacher trainer would only teach what he or she knows without necessarily laying emphasis on aspects that are necessary for trainees to develop competences in teaching language skills and systems (Ngefac, 2011). This tendency to neglect some language systems and skills was reported in Morley (1975), who discovered that pronunciation is an “unpopular subject” among teachers. From her experience as an English teacher, she noticed that teaching pronunciation remains unpopular only among those teachers who are inexperienced or have had inadequate training in phonetics. In her opinion, such teachers are unable to diagnose and treat pronunciation of a second language, which is sometimes a very difficult task. She adds that, although many teachers consider pronunciation as a boring area, it should be integrated into the teaching of any language. Thus, the question that remains is: if some language skills and systems are paid less attention or ignored in ELT, can teacher trainers be expected to competently train student teachers that they can in turn, be able to teach pronunciation effectively?
It should be borne in mind that the ultimate goal of designing the course “English Didactics” in GTTC is to empower trainees with competences that can allow them to teach EFL in general and pronunciation in particular. The development of such skills is only possible if the initial training guarantees their acquisition of competences in different language skills and systems. In this connection, Robinnet (1978:178), cited in Morley (1991), notes that various studies have shown that students tend to learn what they are taught. If they receive instruction in speaking, they learn best to speak the language; if they are taught primarily to read, they learn best to read. Thus, any method that tends to emphasise one or other language skills will result in the greater learning of that skill to the detriment of the other skills. However, Robinnet (op.cit) also posits that each of the skills and systems demands a synthesis of linguistics and cultural knowledge necessary for interpreting (comprehending it through the ear or the eye) or transmitting (producing it in speech or in writing) language. This point Robinnet could easily be linked to teacher education in Cameroon whereby it has been noticed that teachers hardly teach pronunciation because of the initial training they receive at GTTC.
As a matter of fact, trainees’ inability to teach pronunciation during micro-teaching and upon graduation may thus be partly attributed to the fact that many trainers in teacher training colleges do not have an adequate training in pronunciation instruction that may help them to train trainees to develop such competences in teaching pronunciation. This may also partly be the case because trainers pay less attention to pronunciation and lay more emphasis on grammar and vocabulary. In so doing, they tend to forget that a learner may know all the grammar and vocabulary of a language but will not effectively use the language to do things and to have things done if their pronunciation is not intelligible enough. In effect, the negligence of pronunciation by trainers in GTTC obviously poses a fundamental problem. The fact is that the output of student teachers cannot be up to the desired level if the input is below the desired level. The following set of research questions were formulated in order to investigate how the didactics of EFL lessons can help trainees develop competences in teaching oral skills:
- What is the content of lessons on how to teach EFL pronunciation or activities of the oral domain of language?
- How is content selected and graded in the area of teaching pronunciation to EFL learners?
- What are the methods and techniques used by trainers?
- How often do trainers teach lessons on the didactics of EFL pronunciation?
- How well do lessons on EFL pronunciation pedagogy prepare trainees to be competent to teach EFL pronunciation activities in basic education?
With this set of research questions in mind, it is worth defining the scope of this investigation. Unlike previous studies that investigated how some language systems and skills are taught in secondary and primary schools, this work investigates the teaching and learning of pronunciation in GTTC, with particular focus on the content and didactics of English pronunciation and how lessons on pronunciation pedagogy prepare trainees to teach aspects of English pronunciation to English Language learners. The study is equally not concerned with attitudes of trainers towards the teaching of some language skills and systems as is the case in some previous studies (Megne, 2015). The work is carried out within the framework of the course “English Didactics” and more specifically how to teach activities of the domain of oral language in an EFL context. The sample population is limited to some trainers who teach “English Didactics” at Government Bilingual Teacher Training College (GBTTC) Yaounde - Nlongkak and student teachers who take this professional course. GBTTC is a bilingual General Teacher Training College that is found within the Mfoundi division and it is very accessible to the investigator. In this school, “English Didactics” is taught to student teachers who will be called upon, after graduation, to teach many subjects in basic education and ESL and EFL are among these subjects. For the purpose of this study, we are concerned with francophone student teachers who take the course “English Didactics”.
This research is relevant to the entire educational community because it is a further attempt to investigate how teachers are trained to teach oral skills in the Francophone nursery and primary schools. With such relevance, the significance of a study of this nature is multidimensional. First, this study will help to revamp how pronunciation pedagogy is taught in GTTC. Second, we may equally look at who should teach “English Didactics” in GTTC. Third, the study is going to contribute on how “English Didactics” should be taught. Fourth, the work further investigates the way “English Didactics” should be taught with appropriate skills. Fifth, the study is definitely going to probe into what teachers of “English Didactics” actually teach during their lessons. In this regard, it should be mentioned that some previous studies (Ngefac, 2011and Essossomo, 2013) have reported that there is a discrepancy between what is really taught and what is officially recommended. Sixth, the study shows some of the challenges teacher trainers face in training trainees on how to teach a “sensitive” language system like pronunciation in a world where English has become an international language. The negligence of such a key system of language impinges upon teaching and learning at basic education which is the foundation of any strong educational system worth its name. Finally and most importantly, the study investigates ELT in Cameroon GTTC not from the perspective of difficulties faced by learners as is the case with most studies, but from the perspective of teacher trainers’ input and how the latter may or may not fully prepare trainees to effectively teach after undergoing initial training. This is why it is claimed in this study that, if the input is inadequate (that is, lacking the right items, the correct gradation of content, the poor methods and techniques), the output is likely to be inadequate altogether.
We should equally mention that the negligence of some language systems may result from the fact that the “queen’s language” in its original shape remains a far-fetched phenomenon in many postcolonial contexts including Cameroon (Megne: 2015).
With regard to structure, the work is divided into five main chapters, besides the general introduction and conclusion. The General Introduction provides a brief insight into the whole work and highlights the background to the study, the hypotheses, the research questions, the objectives, the scope of the study, its significance, and the structure of the work. Chapter One’s focus is on the problem of the study. Here, the context of the study is discussed and the investigation is justified; the framing of the problem, research questions, the objectives of the study, the significance of the study, and scope and limitation of the study are thoroughly underscored. The second chapter dwells on the definition of key concepts, the review of literature and studies relevant to the topic, theories related to the topic, the framing of hypotheses, the selection of variables, and the presentation of the research summary table. Chapter Three describes the type of research, the location/place of the study, the population, the sample and sampling technique, the data collection tools, the validation of the tool(s), the data collection process, and the data analysis method. The fourth chapter deals with the descriptive presentation of results and the verification of hypotheses. Chapter Five is concerned with the interpretation of results and their theoretical and pedagogic implications. The General Conclusion gives a summary of the research objective and the main findings discovered. It also highlights the contributions of the study, its limitations and some suggestions for further research.
CHAPTER ONE: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY AND STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
This chapter delves into the problem of the study. It traces the motivation behind the investigation of the research problem. This part of the study encapsulates the context and justification of the study, the formulation of the research problem, the design of research questions, the presentation of the objectives of the study, the significance of the study, and the scope and limitation of this study.
1.1 Context and justification of the study
The training of responsible citizens who are rooted in their culture, yet open to the world is one of the priorities of the State of Cameroon (see The Law of Orientation of Education in Cameroon, 1998). Before the liberalisation of the education sector, the State was the sole guarantor of education in the country. The need for quality education and training for youths may be traced in many reference documents of the country. To begin with, Law no 98/004 of April 04, 1998 laying down the guidelines on the orientation of education in Cameroon states some key points that are worth mentioning here. Article 3 of this document highlights that the state gives to bilingualism a place of choice – a catalyst of national integration - at all levels of the educational system. This call from the Law of Orientation of Education is an indicator that both Cameroon official languages – English and French – must be used interchangeably by all citizens in view of strengthening nation building through national integration. Yet, what is observed in the field is something completely different. Despite numerous efforts put in place by promoters of bilingualism across the two sub-systems of education, full implementation of official bilingualism is still in the making. In a bid to further reinforce the promotion of bilingualism in Cameroon, the Head of State, in 2017, signed a strategic decree creating the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (henceforth NCPBM). Despite what precedes, teacher education seems to ignore these efforts made by the government in promoting bilingualism. Surprisingly, most teacher trainers are not aware of the uphill task awaiting them. This uphill task entails, first and foremost, the training of competent student teachers who will promote bilingualism through the quality of lessons they have to teach in nursery and primary schools across the national territory.
In its article 25, the same reference text stipulates that teaching in schools must consider the evolution of science and technology. Teaching should also take into consideration the contents and methods that are adapted to economic, scientific, technological, and socio-cultural evolutions of the country and the international environment. This point here calls for a total shift in paradigm not only in syllabus design, but also in the way the syllabuses are interpreted and taught in classrooms by teachers. Observations have it that the syllabus may be well designed, but if the actors who are chosen to teach the course do not have the necessary competences to interpret them and teach accordingly, the end product will reflect the input they were exposed to at initial training. This idea is corroborated by article 34 of the same law, which clearly states that the learner has the right to the teachings prescribed in the syllabus. During lessons, the article says, freedom of speech and freedom of thought must be well respected. This is to say that there must be a close relationship between the prescribed syllabus and what is actually delivered in classrooms. The learning environment must be conducive for learning and teaching to be carried out hitch-free.
To end this scrutiny of the Law of Orientation of Education there is one more article whose exploration fits into this study. It is stated in article 37 that the teacher remains the guarantor of the quality of education. In this regard he has the right, within his capabilities, to get involved in initial and continuous training. Looking deeply into this article, teachers in general and teacher trainers in particular are referred to as the vehicle that carries quality education. They should impart this quality education on trainees who are under their guidance. Put differently, if teachers are not well equipped at the beginning of their career, they have the right to undergo further training. The latter can be got through continuous training or professional development.
Moving onto the contextual background to this study, the syllabus for GTTC in Cameroon gives an interesting part not only to the promotion of bilingualism, but also to a course on ELT pedagogy. Prior to the scrutiny of this pedagogic document, there is a need to consider some key information about the relationship between ELT pedagogy and development of trainees’ competences.
The way the syllabus for “English Didactics” is designed may make anyone blindly believe that upon graduation, student teachers would effectively teach the four language skills and other language systems. Yet, as surprising as it may be, it is not always the case. According to some reports from classroom teachers’ pronunciation is neglected in basic education despite the fact that the syllabus of “English Didactics” clearly outlines the necessity to teach pronunciation activities. A brief synopsis of the said syllabus reveals the following terminal competence: “at the end of the course, the student teacher must be able to solve professional problem situations involving the application of principles, procedures/methods techniques and appropriate approaches in the teaching - learning process of English Language” (for more about the “English Didactics” syllabus, see appendices A and B). From the formulation of this end-of-course competence, we realise that the syllabus is implemented following The Competence Based Approach (CBA) as recommended in new programmes of study. Yet, it has been observed that competences that are well stated in the syllabus remain unachieved by trainees who graduate from these training institutions. This situation could be linked to trainers who may not have had adequate initial training that enables trainees to fully develop all the expected competences.
The last point to be made here is drawn from the GESP (2009). Better known under its French acronym DSCE, this reference document dedicates a good part to education and vocational training. Thus, within the general framework of human development and in a bid to equip human resources with necessary capabilities to build an emerging economy come 2035, the government lays emphasis on the training of human capital. This is done by putting in place the Sectorial Strategy of Education. This will aim at having a vocational training that relies on a modernised device and that is considerably reinforced to equip learners who leave General Secondary Education with strong know-how required on the job market and who are well prepared to create jobs. Going by this vision of Cameroon, there is a dire need to really make our education become more professional than before. By so doing, quality education remains the sole guarantor for the country to have a workforce that will lead us to emergence.
Considering these guidelines that set the pace to be followed by actors of the educational sector, we may be right to objectively voice some interesting points. First, we realise that despite the legal framework that clearly states the guidelines for training youths, much is still to be done in order to align practices with the visions of policy makers. Besides, the scrutiny of some reports on classroom observations reveal that the way lessons are taught in some subjects remains a call for concern and needs to be deeply revamped. This is the case of English which is the second official language, and that should be mastered by French-speaking Cameroonians in order to comply with the Law of Orientation of Education stated earlier in this part of the work. In fact, quality teacher education, which is so dear to the government of Cameroon, is no longer the most common commodity in our society. These points have motivated the researcher to raise a number of questions as concerns teacher training at GTTCs and how trainees are trained to handle EFL lessons. The scope of the researcher was narrowed down to English pronunciation pedagogy and the building of trainees’ competences to teach oral skills to nursery and primary school pupils of the francophone sub-system of education. During some informal discussions with GTTC graduates, it became too common to hear that a teacher can only teach what he or she was taught. This led us not only to stay at the classroom level in primary schools, but also to trace back into training institutions where these teachers are trained. From this information, we came up with a research problem that could be worth investigating and which is taken in the part below.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon gives the status of official languages to English and French. Both languages must be given equal importance in their daily uses over national media and official documents. It is in this respect that the programme of study for GTTC in Cameroon allocates two courses for the mastery of English. These two courses include English for Francophones and the professional course entitled “English Didactics”. Despite the design of these two courses that aim at equipping trainees with competences to effectively teach English upon graduation, it has been realised over the years that the majority of GTTC student teachers and graduates are unable to teach some language skills and systems. This situation has prompted us to question the training they are offered in teacher training colleges to see if there might be any correlation between the input provided by teacher trainers and the output in nursery and primary schools.
1.3 Formulation of research questions
The following research questions have been formulated to guide this study. Thus, the main research question is as follows:
MRQ: why are most teachers, upon graduation from GTTC, not competent to teach activities of the domain of oral language in Francophone nursery and primary schools?
This main research question is followed by a set of secondary questions. First, what is the content of lessons on EFL pronunciation pedagogy? Second, how is the content designed, selected and graded? Third, what are the methods and techniques used by trainers? Fourth, how often do trainers teach lessons on EFL pronunciation pedagogy? Fifth, how well do lessons on EFL pronunciation pedagogy prepare trainees to be competent to teach activities of the domain of oral language in francophone primary schools?
Following the statement of the research questions, the formulation of the hypotheses is now relevant. In a bid to thoroughly investigate the problem raised by this study, a series of three hypotheses have been formulated. First, as concerns the main research hypothesis, this study claims that most student teachers who graduate from GTTC are not competent to teach pronunciation activities in the EFL classrooms. Besides, it has equally been postulated that schemes of work designed by teacher trainers do not include items that can build trainees’ competences to teach EFL pronunciation activities. Furthermore, it is hypothesised that trainers’ teaching strategies during didactics of pronunciation lessons do not build trainees’ competences to teach activities of the domain of oral language. Finally, the frequency of lessons on how to teach activities of the oral domain accounts for student teachers’ reluctance to teach oral skills in Basic Education.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
This study, unlike previous ones on the teaching of language skills and systems in primary and secondary schools in Cameroon (Megne, 2015), investigates teacher initial training within the framework of the course entitled “English Didactics” in general and EFL pronunciation pedagogy in particular. This is done in a bid to find out if the training offered during this course can really develop the competences of student teachers. In a world where English has become an international language, this work is also going to probe into several aspects of English pronunciation pedagogy teaching in GTTC. Firstly, the frequency of lessons in English pronunciation pedagogy will be investigated. Secondly, the techniques used by trainers who teach “English Didactics” at GTTC and the input used will be reviewed. Thirdly, we shall seek to know how “English Didactics” lessons match with the didactic process which outlines the design and teaching of a professional course for student teachers. Finally, we shall see if the findings corroborate or deviate from the findings reported in previous studies that have contributed extensively on pronunciation pedagogy in the western world (Liang, 2003; Field, 2005; Walker, 2010; Kanellou, 2011).
1.5 Significance of the Study
With regard to its significance, the present study offers an in-depth scrutiny of the didactics of a language system – pronunciation – that is so dear to mutual intelligibility and to effective teaching of any foreign language (Jenkins, 2000; Nunan (ed.), 2003; Jenkins, 2004; Mbeudeu, 2010). First, by investigating initial training of teachers in teacher training institutions, the study is going to revamp the teaching of pronunciation. Dalton (2002) reports that during his initial training as an EFL teacher, one of the course tutors always described pronunciation as "the Cinderella of language teaching", i.e. she never understood why an important language system like pronunciation was so neglected in the language classroom. By this he was referring to the often low level of emphasis placed on this very important language system. He further reveals that we are comfortable teaching reading, writing, listening and to a degree, general oral skills, but when it comes to pronunciation, we often lack the basic knowledge of articulatory phonetics (not difficult to acquire) to offer our students anything more than rudimentary (and often unhelpful) advice such as, "it sounds like this; uuuh". Second, relying on Dalton’s (op.cit.) instance from a Mexican classroom, this research will contribute in demystifying and encouraging the teaching of English pronunciation pedagogy by trainers on one hand and teaching oral skills by student teachers and novice teachers on the other hand. Third, the completion of this study, will revamp the ELT industry in GTTCs. Fourth, we may equally look at the qualification of teacher trainers in “English Didactics” in GTTC. Fifth, the study will also help equip trainers to teach “English Didactics” with a difference that is, taking into account current trends and methods in English pronunciation pedagogy practices. Sixth, and interestingly, at the end of the investigation an instructional device will be suggested by the researcher to help trainers design and teach pronunciation pedagogy (see appendices C and D).
1.6 Scope and limitation of the study
As concerns the scope and limitations of this study, four aspects will be considered. These four perspectives include; the theoretical, empirical, temporal, and geographical limitations.
With regard to scope, this work is carried out within the framework of “English Didactics” in general and EFL pronunciation pedagogy in initial teacher training. Regarding the theoretical limitation, we shall restrict ourselves to some relevant theories of language and theories of learning. As concerns theories of language, we shall look into Krashen’s comprehensible input hypothesis. As for theories of learning, socio-constructivism will be reviewed. These precedent sets of theories will be completed by the theory of didactic intervention.
As far as empirical limitations are concerned, we shall focus on real classroom practices of trainees. This will be done through the observation of pronunciation lessons during micro teaching. We will equally analyse records of workbooks in GTTC and lesson notes of student teachers.
As for the temporal limitation, the study being a retrospective one will cover the last two academic years that is, from September 2015 to May 2017. This choice was made in order to have enough evidence to confirm or infirm the claims underpinning the study.
Finally, the geographical limitation of the study is restricted to GBTTC Yaounde - Nlongkak which is found within the Mfoundi division more precisely in the Nlongkak neighbourhood.
To conclude, this chapter has thrown more light on the context and justification of the study, the research problem and scope. From what precedes, the researcher has been motivated by a set of official releases. The latter, which are official documents describe what ought to be on the field. This part of the thesis has identified the gap that exists between what ought to be and what is. It is on this ground that the researcher has identified the problem of the study and calved out the scope of the study. The various points developed in this chapter are relevant to the study.
CHAPTER TWO : THEORETICAL ISSUES AND RELATED LITERATURE
This chapter critically discusses the theoretical framework upon which the work is couched. The following theories of language and learning are reviewed. As concerns theories of language, Krashen’s (1994) comprehensible input hypothesis is reviewed. As for theories of learning, Vygotsky’s (1978) socio-constructivism is reviewed. These two theories are further completed by Lenoir’s (2002) theory of didactic intervention. Before this critical review is done, it may be suitable to thoroughly review the conceptual framework guiding the work. This will be achieved through the definition of key concepts and phrases of this study. The selected concepts and phrases include: competences, teaching competences, language systems, English as a Foreign Language, pronunciation, and pronunciation pedagogy. Another aspect that is dealt with, in this chapter, is a critical review of related literature. Here, works on several aspects will be scrutinised. First and foremost, didactics of language systems and skills are reviewed. Second, teacher education is reviewed. In this section, teaching methods/techniques of language systems and skills are reviewed. Third, English pronunciation pedagogy is thoroughly considered in order to know what obtains in the existing literature. The chapter is completed, in her late part, by the selection of variables and finally the summary table that typifies the key components of the study.
2.1 Definition of key concepts
Any study in education in general, and language teaching in particular, requires the selection of some key concepts from the research topic. These selected terms and phrases are defined and modelled with the help of reference texts and specialised dictionaries in a bid to give such words a contextual meaning that suits the purpose of the investigation. For the purpose of this study, the following key concepts have been selected: competences, teaching competences, language systems, English as a Foreign Language, pronunciation and pronunciation pedagogy.
Competence is the ability to do something well. It also refers to an important skill that is needed to do a job. Within the framework of language learning and teaching, competence often rhymes with performance. In this regard Brown (1998:31), views competence as one’s underlying knowledge of a system, event or fact. He further states that it is the non-observable ability to do something. He then concludes that in reference to language acquisition, still, competence is your underlying knowledge of the system of a language – its rules of grammar, its vocabulary, all the pieces of a language, and how those pieces fit together. Chomsky, earlier in the 1960’s, had already paved the way to debates on the clear-cut distinction between competence and performance in language acquisition theories. In 1965, he posited that a theory of language had to be a theory of competence lest the linguist vainly tries to categorise an infinite number of performance variables which are not reflective of the underlying linguistic ability of the speaker – hearer.
Relying on the previous definitions, we shall be defining competences as the professional skills acquired during training and which enable the student teacher to effectively teach lessons of the domain of oral language during micro teaching and after graduating from the TTC. Teaching competences will therefore be defined in this work as the skills and abilities a teacher may be equipped with in order to effectively teach a skill or language system.
2.1.2 Language systems
According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Fourth Edition, a system is a set of connected things or device that operates together. The subject of language teaching is not only language skills. Language teaching goes far beyond the four main language skills to encompass language systems. According to Scrivener (1964:20) cited in Megne (2015), language systems are part of the subject matter of language teaching that include phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and functions of language. Our definition of language system concurs with Scrivener’s and we therefore view language systems as a set of language components that are interrelated and whose mastery and understanding can make anyone operate in that language in different areas of life.
2.1.3 English pronunciation pedagogy
According to Richard and Weber (1992:296), pronunciation refers to the way sounds are perceived by the hearer. In this work, we refer to pronunciation as the way sounds are combined, pronounced and perceived by language users – speakers and hearers – in order to build new words and sound intelligible during speech events. This definition corroborates the main activity that dominates pronunciation pedagogy training in GTTCs of Cameroon namely, sound and word building. Other features of pronunciation instruction will also be considered. Some of these include syllables: word endings, consonants, vowels, word stress, rhythm, intonation, and connected speech.
Pedagogy, which originates from the Greek word paidagogos: paid = child, agogos = leader (slave who took child to school), is defined in the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Fourth Edition, as the study of the methods and activities of teaching. It can also be defined as the art, science or profession of teaching. Put differently, it is the exploration of effective teaching and learning strategies.
English pronunciation pedagogy throughout this work is going to be considered as the methods and techniques applied in teaching pronunciation lessons or aspects of the domain of oral of language.
2.1.4 English as a Foreign Language
Foreign, according to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Fourth Edition, is an adjective that means belonging or connected to a country that is not your own. In the field of language teaching and learning, foreign language refers to a learner’s third language after their mother tongue. In Cameroon linguistic landscape, English may be used as a second or foreign language. In our study, English as a foreign language refers to English taught to French-speaking learners or English used by this set of speakers.
2.2 Review of studies relevant to the topic
Initial teacher training or teacher education in general and ELT pedagogy in particular has attracted researchers’ attention over the last two decades or so. This has led to many changes. As a result of this, there have been several paradigm shifts in teaching and learning. The Cameroonian society has not been spared from this ever-changing atmosphere that characterises her training institutions whose practices have now been geared towards effective professionalization of teaching. In this vein, Gauthier, Martinet and Raymond (2001), think that teacher training in general and nursery and primary school teachers training in particular should be professionalized. From this stand point, we shall be reviewing works relating to the problem raised in our study and that falls within the gamut of “English Language Teaching pedagogy”, “development of student teachers’ competences”, “Language system teaching pedagogy”, and “English pronunciation pedagogy”.
2.2.1 English Language Teaching Pedagogy
The deb ate surrounding ELT pedagogy will be tackled following two planes to wit; ELT methods and the post methodology discourse that has recently been gaining grounds in research circles in Africa and the West (kumaravadivelu: 2013).
Traditionally, language teaching has always been informed by a range of methods which may be suitable in one context and inappropriate in another. From this statement, there has been a rush for context-appropriate ELT methods that may prevent trainers from importing methods that were designed for settings that are different from the ecology of teaching (Kuchah: 2013).
Far from being dedicated to the epistemology underlying language teaching, the part that follows cursorily looks at the most striking methodological choices that have been shaping language teaching not only in the West, but also in Cameroon.
To begin with, let us look at some studies carried out by ELT trainers that deal, principally, with the insidious influence of methods discussions on language teacher training in Cameroon before and after the years of educational reform in Cameroon (Kuchah, 1996; Oben, 1997; Wirsiy, 1999; Mufor, 1999). In their studies, they mostly dealt with the comparison and establishment of a relative superiority of Communicative Language Teaching (henceforth CLT) related practices over traditional practices through the administration of lessons. These researchers used control and experimental groups of primary school classes and drew conclusions relying on quantifiable data such as test scores, predefined and itemized observation of classroom patterns that overlook the complex interplay of micro and macro forces in a natural classroom interaction (Kuchah, 2013:37).
Teacher training in Cameroon is replete with practices that originate from well-known teaching methods. The most salient ones include the New Pedagogic Approach (henceforth NPA), the CBA, without forgetting a host of others namely, traditional methods trends propounded by ELT historians such as Stern, 1983; Larsen Freeman, 1986; and Candlin & Mercer, 2001. These ELT epistemologists have investigated the different methods that have been in vogue over the years.
Such methods mainly came as a result of shifts in paradigms of language teaching. These paradigms are, in turn, dictated by demands on language education resulting from social, economic, political or educational circumstances and also from the dissatisfactions and failures of teachers and learners with a particular method (Stern: 1983). Still, Stern (2013), provides a number of criticisms against the methods. Before arriving at the focus of Stern’s criticism, it is worth mentioning some of the hallmarks of this method. In this light, this is what obtains in the literature.
According to Prator and Celce-Murcia (1979:3) the main hallmarks of Grammar Translation (henceforth GT) may be summarised as follows. First, the mother tongue is used to teach the target language and there is little use of the target language. Second, vocabulary is taught in isolation or out of context. Third, there is extensive explanation of grammatical rules and, grammar provides the rules for putting words together. Fourth, the early stage of learning begins with the reading of difficult classical texts. Fifth, little interest is paid to content of texts. Sixth, translation of disconnected sentences from the target language into the mother tongue is practised. Finally, little or no attention is given to pronunciation. In this connection, GT was said to lay more emphasis on the rules of the language and its inability to emancipate the learner from the dominance of the first language. GT faced a lot of criticisms and led to the birth of the Direct Method (henceforth DM).
The Direct Method came on the heels of the Grammar Translation method (henceforth GTM) and its guiding principle was that learners should think directly in the target language. The Webster’s New English Dictionary says that the “direct method is a method of teaching foreign language through conversation, discussion, and the reading in the language itself, without use of pupil’s language, without translation and without the study of grammar. The first words are taught by pointing to the object or pictures or by performing actions. In it, speech precedes reading”.
In this method, the learner is expected to acquire language in the same way he did for his mother tongue. The basic principles revolve around the emphasis of oral training in the second language. Though its merits are said to be closer to the natural way of acquiring a language, its demerits show how the method is difficult for students who have problems reading in their first language. This method is inappropriate in settings where teachers have got defects in pronunciation. Talking of the inappropriateness of the direct method in settings where teachers and teacher trainers have defects in pronunciation, prompts us to question the pedagogic choice suggested in the syllabus for “Anglais” in Cameroon basic education. The syllabus clearly outlines that English should be taught using the direct method and only through English. The question that we may want to ask is to know how well-prepared are teacher trainers and trainees to effectively approximate intelligible pronunciation considering the fact that Cameroon belongs to the Extended Circle of English users (Kachru, 1986). This question is one of the leading purposes of our investigation and will be taken later in this work.
Onto the review of the audio-lingual method, there is a need to embark on a historical curve. After the entry of the US in the Second World War, its government commissioned American universities to develop foreign language programmes for military personnel so that students might attain conversational proficiency in several foreign languages (Richards and Rodgers 2001: 50-51). The method mainly relies on structuralist linguistic paradigm and on behaviourism, which means that a Second Language (henceforth L2) is learned by imitation and repetition of sounds and grammatical structures with the aim of fixing particular structures. Most of the activities designed in this method followed an inductive learning of grammar. This is further crowned by filling-the-gap exercises and memorisation alongside contrastive analysis (Martin Sanchez 2010: 145-146 cited in Marques-Aguado and Solís-Becerra, 2013).
Another method that needs to be reviewed is known the Presentation Practice Production (henceforth PPP). The PPP method is characterised by the teacher’s role that aims at firstly presenting the context and situation for the language. In the meantime, the teacher provides detailed explanation and demonstration of the meaning and form of the new language item that will be taught. This stage is followed by students’ practice that is seen through sentence construction with the language in a controlled way before going on to the production stage where they can be more creative with the language. PPP has proved its extreme effectiveness in teaching simple language at lower levels, but it is less effective with advanced learners who already know a lot of language. The drawback is that the approach is too teacher-centred (Harmer: 1998).
Task-based Learning (henceforth TBL) focuses more on a task than on language itself. At the beginning of TBL is a task to be completed while using the language and when students have completed the task, the teacher can provide some language study to help clear up some of these problems. This method is good enough for more advanced students.
The bilingual method on her part departs from the point that while learning the native language, the child grasps the situation and learns mother tongue words. The advocates of this method point out that it is waste of time for recreating a situation while teaching a foreign language. In their opinion, teaching-learning method is useful when mother tongue equivalents are given to the pupil without duplicating the situation. The method differs from translation method in that it is the teacher only who uses the mother tongue to explain meanings. Besides, pupils are given a lot of practice in the drill of sentence patterns; a practice that does not exist in the translation method.
The structural method focuses on standard complete utterances or complete stretches of sentences that are contextualised. In this regard, the sentences may include real-life situation language like “he gave me a book” formula, the group of words that are used on certain occasion, such as ‘good morning’, ‘well done’, phrase pattern; such as ‘on the table’, ‘with the stick’, and idioms such as ‘at the eleventh floor’, ‘tooth and nail’, etc. The method is supported by the following principles: the importance of speech as the necessary means for fixing all ground work and the importance of forming language habits in the Standard English sentence pattern to replace the pupils’ L1 sentence pattern. This method is credited with a careful selection of language material which facilitates pupils’ learning. Much emphasis is laid on speech, and not on writing with intensive drills that cultivate the habit of speaking the language on pupils’ side. The shortcomings of this include the negligence of reading, writing and vocabulary extension.
During the 1970s, linguists began to look at language, not as interlocking sets of grammatical, lexical, and phonological rules, but as a tool for expressing meaning (Nunan (ed.): 2003). By reconceptualising language teaching as such, the shift in paradigm had a profound effect on language teaching methodology as meaning could be emphasised over form, and fluency over accuracy. This shift also brought about differentiated courses that reflected the different communicative needs of learners. As Nunan, (ed.), (2003) puts it, this needs-based approach also reinforced another trend that was emerging at that time to wit, learner-centred education.
Community Language Learning (henceforth CLL) is a method whereby students’ sitting arrangement is in circles and the selection of topics of discussion is left to them. Given that CLL is a highly student-centred method, the teacher is a facilitator/guide whose primary concern is to intervene whenever learners are in need of any guidance or language items that may be out of their reach (Harmer:1998).
Harmer (2007) suggests one of the most effective methods in language teaching. It is the method that is widely used to analyse classroom practices. The method is known as the Engage – Study – Activate method (henceforth ESA). It offers a great flexibility in the classroom. A brief description of the method reveals the following key points for each of the three stages. First, the engage stage is the sequence of the lesson where the teacher attempts to arouse the students’ interest and gets them involved in the lesson. This stage hypothesises that if students are involved and interested in the lesson, they are going to find the lesson more stimulating and fun, and learning will effectively take place in such a conducive learning environment. Some techniques that engage students include games, discussions, music, cartoons, rhymes, short stories, etc. Second, the Study phase is characterised by the teacher’s explanation of the language item under study. Activities are designed here so that students’ focus is on the language and how it is constructed. The teaching strategies that may contribute to an effective manipulation of the language under study include a good mixture of pair and group work. Third, in the Activate stage, we see a teacher whose role is to encourage students to use any of the language they know as freely and communicatively as possible. The focus is much more on fluency than accuracy. Activities that strengthen this phase and make it successful include, among a multitude of others, role pays, communication games, debates, story writing/telling, reporting, etc.
The ESA approach may be implemented in different ways following the nature of the lesson and learners’ differences. The lesson may follow the straight-arrow way (E – S – A), the boomerang pattern (E – A – S – A) or a patchwork pattern (E – A – A – S – A – E – S – A). Despite this diversity of patterns, all lessons must end with an activate phase.
This multitude of methods and to a lesser extent approaches does not exhaust the debate on ELT pedagogic methods. It should be noted that it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to rely on a single method and reap the best fruits in a lesson. It is, therefore, recommended to rely on an integrative approach that is enlightened by an eclectic approach to language teaching and which in turn advocates a lot of flexibility and openness on teachers’ side.
2.2.2 Development of student teachers’ competences
Owing to the fact that the ELT industry has, over the decades, been subject to tremendous changes, there has been increasing interest in the qualifications of teacher trainers and trainees in colleges of education throughout the world. This awareness is also felt in Cameroon where a lot has been done in equipping language teachers with professional skills that may fully make them competent in the language classroom. The increasing number of publications in the domain of teacher education and training is a clear indication that there is a common consensus amongst educationists that good classroom practices are the result of a carefully planned and executed syllabus for training student teachers in teacher training colleges (Nkeck Bidias, 2013; Tosam, 2016).
The syllabus of “English Didactics” for francophone student teachers in teacher training colleges in Cameroon clearly lays the foundations of a training geared towards the co- construction of competences. The latter’s ultimate goal is to guarantee the development of student teachers’ competences in teaching EFL or ESL in basic education upon completion of their training. In this regard, the syllabus formulates some terminal competences in these words: “at the end of the training, the student teacher should be able to prepare and carry out teaching/learning activities of ‘Anglais’ in nursery and primary school” (National Syllabus of “English Didactics” for GTTC). In this same syllabus, there are other items that further pursue the quest for equipping student teachers with teaching skills in different domains thus cutting across a wide range of competences (for more on this syllabus for “English Didactics”, see appendices A and B).
From the existing literature, it is widely believed that gone are those days of lectures during language lessons because the shift in educational demands today is to facilitate the acquisition of competences that will enable learners act in real life situations (Ellis, 1994 cited in Tosam, 2016). It follows that the effective attainment of this quest is through competent language trainers who are abreast of a variety of appropriate ELT methods. The part that follows is the review of some works on the development of student teachers competences during their initial training. It should be recalled that most of the works to be reviewed deal with instructional devices to be implemented at the initial training of student teachers. The present study will review the works of Cifali, Belinga Bessala, Altet, and Nkeck Bidias.
Following a psycho analytic approach, Cifali (1994) hints that the teaching profession occupies centre stage in human relations. He indicates that competences should not be restricted to mere bodies of knowledge. Rather, the latter should be viewed from a dual perspective with affects. This author calls for the teacher to find a “clinical space” whereby each situation is examined in its singularity. For this purpose, the author questions a clinical approach in training that is characterised by “a timeless work” that is, a deep reflexion on the implication of a “clinical intelligence” “that does not solely originate from applied theories”, but which requires the fulfilment of a condition: “not being afraid of the other partner”.
According to this author, this clinical approach to professionalization also raises the problem of “ethics”. Cifali also recommends that the construction of this clinical approach take into account constituted bodies of knowledge which are considered as the starting point of permanent questioning about living things and experimented knowledge. Added to these bodies of knowledge is what Cifali terms “alterity knowledge” which are bodies of knowledge on distances between actors, relational issues, and inter subjectivity. In summary, Cifali emphasises that for teacher training to be effective, trainers put in place a “clinical spirit”, build training devices where trainees will share their practice and their implication. The trainer is responsible for developing or not the writing of a “daily” experience. From the foregoing it is evident that Cifali is for a clinical approach to training and this is in line with approaches of cognitive psychology or sociology as expressed by other authors. Furthermore, Cifali’s arguments could be linked to teacher training whereby specific courses are designed to drill trainees on how to build their own competence and reflect on their own practices. Considering that cifali adopts the clinical approach to teacher training, what has Belinga Bessala got to offer in building student teachers’ competences?
Belinga Bessala (2005) supports that teachers’ initial training revolves around three training models which are translated into five components. Having hypothesised that a teacher is defined following the expectations of the society he belongs to, Belinga Bessala distinguishes the following training models: the teacher as a transmitter, the teacher as a guide, and the teacher as a researcher.
The first model that views the teacher as a transmitter focuses on the mastery of contents to be taught. Here, the didactic component is absent and the learner is seen as a vessel. The learner’s role is to assimilate and faithfully reproduce what has been transmitted by the teacher. With regard to the training model of the teacher as a guide, it is said to have originated from the evolvement of psychology and sciences of education; more specifically didactics. Here, emphasis is put on learners rather than contents. It is a learner-centred approach whereby the teacher is no longer responsible for the elaboration and transmission of knowledge, but guides learners to elaborate and construct their own knowledge. In a word, knowledge is co-constructed.
Belinga Bessala (2005) completes these models with the training of teachers as researchers. This model, which may have originated from Stenhouse’s work (1985) cited in Ombede (2013), is an attempt to pair up research and teaching. This is a call heeded to teachers who should not only be considered as knowledge dispensers, but as researchers in pedagogy in view of ameliorating their educational practices (Belinga Bessala, 2005). Put differently, initial training should equip trainees with tools that will help them to fully implement reflexive practices in their classrooms and then make pedagogical choices that are informed by context-appropriate ELT methods.
From these models, the same author generates five key components on which teacher trainer should rely. These are the scientific, didactic, psychological, cultural, and practical components.
Regarding the scientific component, it dwells on the domain of fundamental subjects like English, French, Mathematics, and History, to name but these few. This component aims at equipping the teacher with the structure and epistemology of the subject to be taught. It goes far beyond the latter to include choice of appropriate teaching methods. This domain is referred to as Didactics of subjects. As for the didactic component, it refers to technological knowledge that in turn is seen through know-how. In more accurate words, it is “ the training to the mastery of teaching methods and techniques, classroom management, rational planning of teachings, selection of teaching contents, as well as value systems taking into account the real training needs of learners” (Belinga Bessala, 2005:69).
With regard to the psychological component, the training should enable the future teacher to know the psychology of the learners to be taught. The training offered in psychology should help trainers come up with different learning and motivational theories of learners. On the cultural plane, the author believes that it has been neglected despite its importance. It should rather be re-invested so as to overcome the ever-changing nature of our cultures and the advent of globalisation, the development of Information and Communication Technologies henceforth ICTs) that have come to stay. Due to these changes, the cultural plane should empower trainers to “know and identify cultural elements, that are excluded from academic contents, but which highly influence learners” (Belinga Bessala, 2005). Concerning the practical component, it remains a professional exigency in teacher training. According to Belinga Bessala (op.cit.), it is because “practicum helps trainees to bridge the gap between theories learned and teaching practices in secondary schools” and we may even add across all the levels of the educational system. The foregoing discussion whose reliability on didactics cannot be overemphasised has been echoed by another Cameroonian researcher whose contribution will be reviewed in the next segment of this work. This segment dwells on the professionalization of teacher training.
Professionalization of teaching in Cameroon under the canopy of professional didactics has been well established in the works of Nkeck Bidias (2013). According to this researcher, ‘professionality’ does not end at training schools. “It also encompasses the workplace, and therefore calls for a transformation of training institutions into renewed schools that advocate the application of professional didactics” (Nkeck Bidias, 2013:1).
Departing from a systemic approach, she believes that the professionalization of teaching in Cameroon may be attributed to a theoretical framework of the instructional design. Besides, considering the challenges imposed by the attainment of Millennium Development Goals and the implementation of the competence based curricular reform coupled with integration pedagogy, the professionalization of teaching can be tackled from the following perspectives: research, the reference to school subjects so as to elaborate contributing subjects to teacher training, training and training curricula, field practices, teacher trainer during the training, the cooperative teacher, and actors of the supervision chain. The way forward, the author suggests, is to build on a co-enterprise whereby the design of teacher training will rely on a participatory approach. The latter should integrate all actors of the educational system. She highly advocates the theory of didactic intervention whose foundation is professional didactics and by implementing the theory, we may come up with a model of instructional device and a nationwide observatory of research on teaching practices hosted by all training colleges.
These two preceding authors – Belinga Bessala and Nkeck Bidias – strongly recommend a model based on professional didactics to come up with a sound teacher training. Another model that has been recommended by Altet is worth exploring.
In a series of works dedicated to the development of teachers’ competences, Altet (2000, 2011, and 2012) suggests a general reflexion on the process of knowledge and the construction of professional competence in teachers. According to this author, the ‘professionality’ of teaching can be seen as the rationalisation of bodies of knowledge put in place, but also through effective practices in specific contexts. In this vein, the teacher is defined as a professional of interaction whose dual role is summarised into the didactic function of structuring and managing contents and a pedagogic management function that aims at regulating classroom events in an interactive way (Altet:2000). Thus professional competences of the teacher include various types of knowledge: theoretical knowledge (“knowledge to be taught” and “knowledge to teach”) and practical knowledge (“knowledge on the practice” and “knowledge of the practice”). In 2011, the same author, while carrying out an investigation on the state of the art in teacher training at GTTCs in Cameroon, concludes that reference texts in use are out-dated and curricula are overloaded. He also discovers the absence of finalities in teacher training and the absence of real training curricula and competence indicators amongst a multitude of shortcomings. In a bid to overcome these challenges, Altet suggests a training that alternates practice and theory. This entails action and practical experience on one hand and documented and tool-based analyses of such practices on the other hand. Put differently, this entails training teachers from practices and prompting them to critically examine real practices, yet relying on three processes and their different logics: training, action, and research (Altet, 2012). Such interaction will make possible the analysis and production of formal pedagogical knowledge that may be transferred to other similar situations.
Teacher development of competences, it has been highlighted in the preceding paragraphs, can be viewed from different perspectives. These are the clinical approach that considers the learner’s affects (Cifalli, 1994 and 1996) followed by professional didactics of subjects (Belinga Bessala, 2005 and Nkeck Bidias, 2013) before concluding with the rationalistic approach to knowledge (Altet, 2000; 2011 and 2012). All these approaches are important in training student teachers, but for the purpose of our research, we shall be focussing on the clinical approach to teacher training and professionalization of teaching through professional didactics as suggested by Belinga Bessala and Nkeck Bidias in their instructional designs.
After exploring the different approaches that can be adopted in framing an instructional device, it may be worth looking at teaching from a narrow perspective namely, the methods behind the teaching of language systems.
2.2.3 Language system teaching pedagogy
Teaching a language system cannot be done in a vacuum. It follows a meticulously planned method whose implementation may definitely yield successful results not only in the classroom milieu, but also in real-life situations. According to Scrivener (1964:20), language systems are part of the subject matter of language teaching that include phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and functions of language. As stated earlier, each of these systems has a specific pattern that must be followed in the course of its teaching.
The teaching of grammar has been over decades a key language system in language teaching. A host of theorists (Krashen, 1982; Richards, 1976) have invested themselves into building approaches and methodologies to teach grammar. With the different shifts in paradigms that characterised language teaching since its inception, grammatical proficiency and language proficiency are no longer considered as one and same things in the sense that grammar plays a role in speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. As such, its teaching cannot be ignored. As for the frequency of grammar lessons in courses and course books, grammar lessons remain the most represented language system. As a result of this, most learners find it necessary to study grammar (Scrivener, 1994:2; cited in Kanellou, 2011).
Methodological considerations in teaching grammar
The teaching of grammar per say has been investigated by a few authors. This is the case of Einsenstein (1987:279) cited in Megne (2015:32), whose focus is on how to teach grammar. He considers various factors affecting how grammatical explanations can be given and then briefly examines the approach to the teaching of grammar found in a number of language teaching methods. The suggestion made by the author is that solutions adopted depend on the age of learners, their learning experience, their cognitive style, the setting, and the kind of grammatical rule being taught. This may indicate whether to apply a deductive or an inductive approach, whether grammatical terminology will be used and what the medium of explanation will be. In a CBA era, the teaching of grammar is done in an inclusive manner so much so that the grammar item to be used is integrated into a main skill and the enabling skill, that is grammar in this case, will help achieve the target skill and equip learners with linguistic competences.
On how to teach grammar, Nunan (ed.), (2003:155) paves his way with some background facts to the teaching of grammar. In this regard, he departs from the point that thirty years ago or so, language teaching and grammar teaching were a perfect rhyming couple in most language classrooms and the primary aim of teaching was to ensure that learners mastered the grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary of the language. The methodology was dominated by Audiolingualism whose dominance is still felt in nowadays classroom practices. The typical audiolingual lesson could be built upon 7 key stages to wit:
1. Present the new language item to be learned, giving a clear demonstration of its meaning through nonverbal means such as pictures or actions (do not give grammatical explanations).
2. Model the target pattern, using a number of examples.
3. Get the whole class to mimic and memorize the new pattern following the teacher’s model.
4. Introduce a substitution drill, first to the whole class, then with the class divided into two, and then with individual responses.
5. Repeat the first four steps, using negative versions of the target structure.
6. Repeat the first four steps, using interrogative (question) versions of the target structure.
7. Check for transfer, using previously unrehearsed cues. Solicit both whole class and individual responses (Nunan (ed.), 2003).
This era was then followed in the 1970s by two developments that reconsidered language teaching. Researchers firstly began to look at the order in which learners acquired grammar of the language. Equally, it was assumed that if a teacher taught a given item on a given day (and it was taught well), it would have a strong impact on what was learned. The surprising results that researchers came up with showed that learners from different language backgrounds (Spanish and Chinese in the first instance) appeared to acquire grammatical items in the same order; this order differed from the order in which items were taught in class, did not appear to be alterable by instruction, and knowing a rule was no guarantee that the rule could be used for communication (Dulay and Burt, 1973; Krashen, 1981; 1982).
Following these investigations, it was then concluded that acquisition orders were determined by the nature of the language to be learned, rather than through a contrast between the first language and the target language. In the same vein, krashen argued that grammar teaching led to conscious learning, whereas what was wanted was subconscious acquisition (Krashen, ibid).
Coming on the heels of this argument by Krashen were two recent trends in language teaching: focus on form and consciousness-raising (Doughty and Williams, 1998; Fotos and Ellis, 1991 .). Looking at language teaching from this standpoint, focus on form refers to the practice of explicitly drawing students’ attention to linguistic features within the context meaning-focused activities. Put differently, communication comes first, and form comes second. From this point of view expressed by Doughty and Williams (ibid), it is clear that the learners’ attention is drawn specifically on linguistic features backed by communicative demands of the society.
As for consciousness-raising, it is a type of focus-on-form approach to grammar teaching. According to Larsen-Freeman (2001:39, 40) these exercises do not require students to produce the target grammatical item through discovery-oriented tasks.
The preceding ideas, though having aroused discussions amongst researchers, were in vogue some years ago. Yet as language teachers, the best way to go beyond these ideas is to always try as much as possible to create a learning environment during grammar lessons whereby students will face real life situations so that the smooth transition from classroom activities to social functions of language will be met without any compromise. So far, we have looked at background information on the teaching of grammar with so many ideas from different researchers. What does the literature say about some principles underlying the teaching of grammar?
Principles underlying the teaching of grammar
There are many principles for teaching grammar in EFL and ESL contexts. Such principles aim at facilitating mediation between the learner and the target knowledge to be acquired. The following principles have been identified and each will be taken in turn: integrating both inductive and deductive methods into your teaching, using tasks that make clear the relationship between grammatical form and communicative function, and focusing on the development of procedural rather than declarative knowledge (Nunan (ed.), 2003).
As for the integration of both inductive and deductive methods into your teaching, we can say that an inductive classroom is characterised by a teacher who provides a grammatical explanation or rule followed by a set of exercises designed to clarify the grammatical point and help the learners master that point. Here, you work from principles to examples (Nunan, ibid). In an inductive procedure, you present the learners with samples of language and, through a process of guided discovery, get them to work out principles or rules for themselves. These two approaches, it should be noted, may each have their advantages and shortcomings. On the question to know whether the inductive or deductive approach to teaching grammar is the best, out of experience and from the existing literature, we observe that an approach could be preferred to the other because of learners’ differences and abilities. Yet, while the deductive approach seems to be more practical, straight to the point, effortless, and easy to be implemented, the inductive approach is more difficult for low-ability learners. This notwithstanding, it allows learners to keep the items learned for life and use them effectively. In this connection, the inductive approach will be more used in a CBA context than the deductive approach. This is because it engages students in the construction of the target knowledge to be learned. Despite this, the dialogic approach will be more appropriate in CBA than the reliance either on deductive or inductive teaching.
The second principle that is under review is the use of tasks that make clear the relationship between grammatical form and communicative function. The ineffectiveness of many grammar-based courses may be attributed to the fact that grammar items are not only presented and taught as an abstract system, but also because of the isolated presentation of the language – sentences out of context – that leads to learners’ failure to apply the knowledge acquired in the appropriate context to get or have things done. A case in point is the strategy used by most teachers in active to passive transformations whereby students are tasked to turn the active voice sentences into the passive without linking the classroom activity to any insightful communicative contexts that require the use of such language items. The proposed strategy recommends that this grammar item be presented in a context that makes clear the relationship between the grammatical form and the communicative function that is showing “WHY” the passive voice is used – to place the emphasis on the action rather than the doer, to hide the identity of the doer, etc - (Nunan, op.cit.). By looking at this second principle, there is a link between the grammatical form, the communicative function and different types of knowledge when dealing with the teaching of grammar.
The focus on the development of procedural rather than declarative knowledge is the next principle underlying the teaching of grammar that is reviewed in this work.
Existing literature in language learning has it that declarative knowledge is ‘knowing language rules’ while procedural knowledge is ‘being able to use the knowledge for communication’. The grammar learning context is replete with learners who can easily describe the rules of grammar points extensively, explain them to the least details but when using language that needs the application of such rules, the learners will not render their messages communicatively. Such students are said to have declarative knowledge that is they can state or declare the rule, but not a procedural knowledge (they cannot or do not use the rule when communicating their ideas). Other language learners or users – mostly native speakers – fall into the category of those who possess procedural knowledge and it may be extremely difficult for them to state the rules unless they study grammar in a formal way.
Although declarative knowledge may help develop procedural knowledge, students need to develop the mastery of target language items, not by memorizing rules but by using the target items in communicative contexts. This learning strategy that requires the learners to be learning by doing has come to the grammar classroom through the approach known as experientialism (Nunan (ed.), 2003). The latter is at the centre of communicative language teaching as the learners learn through trials and failures until the target competence is fully mastered and that there is a behavioural change which can be observed between their competences at the beginning of the lesson and at its end.
From these three principles it has been noticed that the teaching of grammar relies on well-built principles that are good for the effective teaching of lessons. These principles, to be well implemented, may be accompanied by some carefully designed classroom techniques and tasks.
To begin with, there is a distinction between techniques in which the grammar point is relatively implicit as opposed to those that are relatively explicit (Doughty and Williams, 1998). Other techniques are also provided by another researcher. Such techniques are placed on a continuum from those that focus on accuracy to those that focus on fluency. They are further separated into reproductive techniques – learners basically reproduce models provided by the teacher or the textbook – and creative techniques whereby learners have the freedom to use a range of structures to express meanings (Ur, 1966). To make Ur’s point more comprehensible, we may look at input enhancement techniques and consciousness-raising activities. The first technique refers to when a teacher gets students to notice the grammar item to be introduced. By applying this technique, students’ attention is drawn on items that are meant to be noticed. This can be done through highlighting, underlining, colouring, circling or simply “flagging” the target grammar item. These awareness-raising techniques are at the accuracy end of Ur’s accuracy-fluency continuum.
As for consciousness-raising activities, they get learners to notice a particular grammatical feature or principle even if learners are not required to use or practice the target item.
Other techniques that can be used in the classroom have also been identified. Grammar dictation or dictogloss as called by its creator, Ruth Wajnryb, involves group work, peer construction of knowledge and competence, reflection on how grammar works in context, note taking, and active use of language in contexts. To implement it, the teacher dictates a passage containing target language forms at normal speed. Students take notes and then work in small groups to reconstruct the original passage.
The garden path technique is basically built upon the inductive learning. The aim of the task is to encourage students to process the target structure more deeply and make students to over generalize thus leading them to errors. Here students would study samples of the language and come to a hypothesis or generalization. From the broad generalization, students are exposed to disconfirming evidence and then have to modify their hypothesis.
At the beginning of this part, we indicated the place grammar has got in language teaching as well as some background information to the teaching of grammar. We went further, after reviewing some background and context, to articulate some guiding principles in the grammar classroom – adaptation or creation of grammar learning opportunities in the classroom. We also presented a wide range of classroom techniques. After this short summary what does the literature say about the teaching of vocabulary? This will be taken in the part that follows.
The teaching of vocabulary
Lexis or vocabulary in the teaching process is also proved to be an essential component of uses in a language. For a learner to be proficient in a language, it is said, they need about 7,000 to 10,000 words. The mastery of these words requires a set of teaching and learning strategies. In any attempt to teach vocabulary, it is worth distinguishing the different types of vocabulary – high frequency, academic, technical, low frequency – and describing how to deal with them. It should also be needful to describe the strands of a well-balanced course and the conditions they require to be effective for vocabulary learning and help learners apply a range of effective vocabulary learning techniques and strategies across the four learning strands in language course (meaning-focused output, deliberate learning, meaning-focused output, and fluency development) (Nunan (ed.), op.cit.). This should be coupled with the mastery of some principles underlying the teaching of vocabulary.
Principles underlying the teaching of vocabulary
Nation observes that learners see vocabulary as being a very important part of language and one of the difficulties in planning the vocabulary component of a course is making sure that it does not overwhelm other essential parts of the course. He suggests that the best way of avoiding this is for course designers and teachers to have a set of guiding principles that can be applied in a variety of teaching and learning situations. The following path is suggested by Nunan (ibid) to effectively teach vocabulary.
First, there should be a focus on the most useful vocabulary. These useful words must cut across language for listening, speaking, reading or writing as well as in formal and informal situations: this most useful vocabulary makes up the set of high frequency words of the target language that contrast with low frequency words. After having looked at what words to teach and to learn, Nation suggests the second principle that focuses on how they should be taught and learned.
Second, there is a need to focus on the vocabulary in the most appropriate way. Here, emphasis is on the four key vocabulary learning strategies of using word parts, guessing from context, using word cards, and using dictionaries. Equally here, we may draw a distinction between how teachers should treat high frequency words and low frequency words. Since English is a language that has been strongly affected by other languages, its core vocabulary is from Germanic words from Anglo-Saxon and Norse which make up most of the function words and well over half of the first 1,000 words of English. Beyond the first 1,000 words, most of the words, around 60 percent came into English from French (through conquest), Latin (through religion), or Greek (through scholarship). In these French, Latin, and Greek words there are typical prefixes, stems, and suffixes: as/soci/ation, de/fin/ition, col/loc/ate, con/tain, un/in/form/ative. When dealing with such words, the use of part knowledge is very necessary in learning low frequency words.
Onto another idea, because high frequency words cover a large proportion of the running words of a text, they provide a helpful context to allow learners to guess the meaning of low frequency words. Apart from these two techniques – word part knowledge and guessing from context – there are two strategies namely; using word cards for deliberate learning and looking up words in dictionaries. How does each of these strategies work?
Using word cards involves making small cards and writing the English word on one side and the first language translation on the other. These cards are consulted by learners during their free time and deliberately without any pressure from the teacher. The fact that the learner applies deliberate learning as opposed to incidental learning makes the acquisition remain on the long-term memory and this strategy is highly effective (Nunan, ibid).
Learning how to use a dictionary is a quite effective strategy, yet to be successfully achieved there is need for training and practice.
Third, there is a need to pay attention to the high frequency words across the four strands of a course. The words under study should cut across the four language skills and they should also be fluently accessible for receptive and productive use. Put differently, high frequency vocabulary should be used in communicating messages in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Learners should be encouraged to reflect on and take responsibility for learning. For this to be effective, learners need to choose words that will be useful for them as can be seen in the quotation below by a student as reported by Moir and Nation (2002).
“Mostly I just choose the words that I already know but have to improve them or make them clear to me. Or I choose the one that are difficult to – me – about how to use them in different situations.”
In an attempt to guide learners in reflecting on and take responsibility for learning, Nunan (ibid), suggests four strategies namely, to inform learners of the different types of vocabulary, train the learners in the various ways of learning so that they are very familiar with the range of learning options available for them, provide genuine opportunities for choosing what to learn and how to learn, and provide encouragement and opportunity for learners to reflect on their learning and evaluate it.
To have a complete picture of how to handle vocabulary teaching in the classroom, let us have a look at some classroom techniques and tasks that are suggested and equally how to implement them in the classroom.
Classroom techniques and tasks for teaching vocabulary
To begin with, there are meaning-focused input activities which involve the learners focusing on understanding passages where there is a low density of new vocabulary. To achieve this, teachers can read to learners from graded readers, briefly noting difficult words on the board and giving quick translations or definitions. The reading can be done as a serial with the story unfolding week by week.
Deliberate learning activities on their part involve direct study or direct teaching. Their implementation includes the following learning strategies:
- having the meanings of words explained and examples of use provided
- learning prefixes and suffixes, and cutting up words to see their parts
- studying vocabulary on bilingual word cards
- learning and using mnemonic techniques like the keyboard technique to help remember vocabulary
- practising spelling rules
- Doing cloze exercises where the missing words in a text are recently met items
- Building word families by adding prefixes and suffixes to a stem
- Learning to use the vocabulary learning strategies of word cards, guessing from context, using word parts, and dictionary use (Nunan (ed.), 2003:142).
Meaning-focused output activities involve producing spoken or written messages. One of the effective ways of turning input into output is to base speaking and writing activities on written input. This is so probably because combining written input with speaking and then writing increases vocabulary learning opportunities. To end this part on vocabulary teaching techniques let us have a look at fluency activities.
Fluency activities in teaching vocabulary
Fluency activities involve receiving or producing easy messages with pressure to go faster. In the classroom the actual implementation of fluency activities will include the following:
- A very basic listening fluency involving the learners pointing to or writing numbers as the teacher quickly says them in an unpredictable order.
- At a slightly more advanced level learners can listen to stories from graded readers which are well within their vocabulary knowledge. That is, where they have 100 percent coverage of the running words.
- Speaking fluency activities involve speaking on very familiar topics with some pressure to speak faster as in a 4/3/2 activity where the learners speak to one listener for four minutes on a topic, then gives exactly the same talk to a different listener but in three minutes, and then to a different listener in two minutes
- Very elementary reading fluency activities can involve learners responding orally to flashcards of words and phrases.
- Once learners have a vocabulary of around seven or eight hundred words, they can do speed reading training using very easy graded readers or speed reading course with controlled vocabulary.
- Speed writing under time pressure about topics that are very familiar or that have just been read and talked about.
- Reading lots of very easy graded readers for pleasure can develop reading fluency.
The foregoing discussion has been throwing lights on vocabulary teaching pedagogy. We saw that the teaching of vocabulary is not done in a vacuum. Since vocabulary is a very useful component of language teaching, as it deals with lexis, all vocabulary lessons should be carefully planned and items should be graded in such a way that learners easily identify themselves and actively participate in the construction of knowledge. Indeed, the mastery of vocabulary teaching is a further step in accomplishing fluency in language learners, yet we may be bound to link this enabling skill with another language system whose teaching is at the centre of language system pedagogy. This language system falls within phonology and to be more specific, pronunciation. The part that follows dwells on English pronunciation pedagogy.
2.2.4 English Pronunciation Pedagogy
When you talk with someone else, you may want to know the first thing they notice about your English. It is neither your grammar nor your lexis. Rather, it is your pronunciation! People who easily exclaim when they listen to us do so because of an instant impression of your English skills based on your pronunciation. If your pronunciation is good, you will appear to be more fluent, but if you have bad pronunciation, it can make your English sound worse than it really is. This situation is also true of teacher trainers and teachers who are out to train and teach. Whether you are a teacher trainer or a teacher-to-be, you may fall within three levels of pronunciation. At level one, English speakers do not understand their interlocutors very well (the pronunciation of English words by a speaker is so different that native speakers find it very difficult understand s/he thus asking the speaker to repeat the message frequently). As concerns level two, English speakers understand a language user, but they have to concentrate. Here, native English speakers can understand the user, but they need to carefully pay attention and the speaker needs to sometimes repeat things. As for the third level, English speakers understand the speaker clearly and easily. At this level, the speaker may still have an accent, but can speak English clearly enough to be understood all the time, thus almost never repeating what s/he says in English. In the CBA dispensation where the teacher or trainer is a facilitator, there is a dire need not only to overcome one’s pronunciation pedagogy lapses but to go an extra mile to either fall in the second or third category presented above. But before doing so a learning curve is worth taking. For the purpose of this work, we shall be reviewing the most striking aspects of pronunciation pedagogy in terms of background to the teaching of pronunciation, principles for teaching pronunciation, techniques for teaching pronunciation as well as some activities for teaching pronunciation. All these, it should be noted, will be informed by research carried out throughout the world while focusing on foreign language context yet, without forgetting the contributing area of New Englishes in pronunciation pedagogy.
The epistemology of the teaching of pronunciation is replete with orientations that shaped and continue to shape pronunciation pedagogy. This is because the place of pronunciation teaching in both ESL and EFL classrooms has gone through periods of interesting changes over the past 50 years. In this regard, we shall be reviewing three primary orientations. After reviewing these three main orientations and their hallmarks, we shall be looking at works that deal with how to teach pronunciation as viewed by Celce-Murcia, 1996; Ur, 1996; Baker, 2011; Paz, 2011; and Kanellou, 2011. As hinted earlier, let us focus on the different orientations that guided the teaching of pronunciation since its inception in 1940s (Nunan, (ed.), 2003).
Orientations guiding the teaching of pronunciation
The first orientation: 1940s-1950s – “listen carefully and repeat what I say”
Grounded in theories of behaviourism, this first orientation depends upon learner’s ability to imitate sounds they hear. Lessons built on this principle challenge learners to mimic, memorize, and in other ways practice language samples to the point of being able to reproduce them automatically. The materials used for classroom activities include scripts and dialogues to be memorized and language lessons that feature teacher-led presentations of language samples, substitution drills, intensive practice with sentence patterns to name but these few. The phases of the lesson are characterised by pronunciation practice of language samples which serve as a primary medium through which grammar and vocabulary are taught. Besides, classroom procedures assume that learners with a “good ear” will be able to figure out how to pronounce English through guided exposure to reliable models. The problem here is that learners differ in how effectively they are able to really listen to and discern the sound system of a new language. Resulting from this problem, there may be a need to train learners explicitly in how the L1 and L2 sound systems differ and complement. This first orientation has been reliable in pronunciation classrooms and is still relevant in some parts of the world where English is either taught as Foreign or Second Language. It might be too demanding or unrealistic to solely rely on this orientation because of the emergence of new varieties of English in the world. Because of this multiplicity of Englishes, could it not be necessary to have a look at what the second orientation recommends?
Second orientation: 1960s-1970s – “Let’s analyse these sounds closely to figure out how to pronounce them more clearly.”
This orientation is quite overt as opposed to the first one presented above. It features explicit presentation, intensive practice with specific sounds, and depends upon learners’ mental abilities to make sense of complex descriptions of sounds. Much time is devoted to explicit presentation and practice with the sounds of English with more focus on the individual level of vowels and consonants. By doing this, learners are moulded into cultivating analytic abilities to “learn about’ speech sounds, compare and contrast the English sound system with that of their first language before practising new sounds intensively. The didactic materials used in the classroom to introduce learners to the sound system include diagrams, charts, and video clips that depict how sounds are produced from two main perspectives: place and manner of articulation. In a bid to get students appropriate the full sound system of English, the teacher may introduce a listing of symbols to represent individual vowels and consonants. This can be seen with the introduction of the International Phonetic Alphabet (henceforth IPA). This orientation is not tied down to segmental features of words. It goes far beyond to include broader aspects of stretches of spoken language such as blending across word boundaries like word stress, rhythm patterns, and intonation. This orientation, though more inclusive than the first one, has its merits that cannot be totally discarded. It is worth mentioning that the dynamics imposed on language methodology makes it possible to always find some loopholes in an approach that could be viewed as a one size fits all type, but with shifting sands, any technique or approach always comes to be questioned and new findings discovered. How did the third orientation contribute in the development of pronunciation pedagogy?
Third orientation: 1980s and beyond (communicative and task-based language teaching) – “Let’s start using these sounds in activities as soon as we can while I provide cues and feedback on how well you’re doing.”
Deeply rooted in interactive approaches to learning and teaching, the third orientation is a typical reflection of learning by doing. This orientation may encompass brief explanations of how sounds are produced but shifts considerably to interactive classroom activities that are controlled, guided, and increasingly more extemporaneous in nature. As in the second orientation, the teacher may give explanations on how to render specific sounds but technical explanations are kept short and learners are given increased opportunities to begin conversing among themselves while using the target sounds. As for classroom tasks, learners are the main actors of the construction of knowledge through the expression of meaningful language in context while teachers listen in, monitor how well their students are doing and lend support. By doing so, learners are challenged to incorporate new sounds into more extemporaneous opportunities to speak. Following is the four-stage sequence, adapted from Celce-Murcia, 1987 cited in Nunan, (op.cit.), which typifies the third orientation:
1. Identify what sounds or sound patterns might be in need of improvement.
2. Find real-world context of natural language use with many natural occurrences of the identified sounds or sound patterns.
3. Design communication-based classroom tasks of genuine language use that incorporate the identified sounds.
4. Develop at least three or four tasks that may be used to recycle the focus for instruction while providing new contexts for practicing the target sound patterns.
An extension of this orientation also encapsulates other features of the sound system than individual consonant and vowel sounds. These are known under the umbrella term supra-segmentals and they consist of word stress, sentence stress, rhythm and intonation which are all priorities.
The review of the history of pronunciation pedagogy has clearly revealed three main strands which came one after the other with supplementary information so as to make the teaching of pronunciation more comprehensible and inclusive. These orientations further took into account learners’ needs and difficulties as well as their L1 sound system. From these orientations, what are the principles highlighting the teaching of pronunciation?
Principles highlighting the teaching of pronunciation
Five key principles for teaching pronunciation have been identified in the literature and will be reviewed in this section. Nunan, (ibid), suggests the following principles for teaching pronunciation:
- Foster intelligibility during spontaneous speech,
- keep affective considerations firmly in mind,
- avoid the teaching of individual sounds in isolation,
- provide feedback on learner progress, and
- Realize that ultimately it is the learner who is in control of changes in pronunciation.
Each of these principles is taken in turn.
The first principle came as a response to a flaw in pronunciation teaching which was, in the earlier decades, the tendency to teach speech sounds isolated from meaningful contexts. Nowadays there is a shift from perfect pronunciation teaching to communicative pronunciation whereby learners and teachers do not sound native-speaker like, but whose competences in pronunciation can built their sociolinguistic competence. This way, lessons of pronunciation should engage learners in using sounds in more personalized ways and through more spontaneous ways of speaking. The bottom line in this principle is intelligibility. It can only be attained when speakers of a language share the same linguistic codes and are not lost during speech events. This may be because of the way they were taught pronunciation which was detached from real life situations, connected speech or fast speech. We may equally want to think that the ultimate goal of pronunciation teaching is to foster intelligibility amongst speakers and not turn English learners into Received Pronunciation speakers overnight due to the status of English in Cameroon as an L2. Nevertheless, to echo Simo Bobda and Ebassa (1990:25) quoted in Mbeudeu (2010), “anyone speaking the language – and we may add teaching the language – should make an effort to improve his/her pronunciation to approximate native speakers for the sake of international communication”. Yet for this intelligibility quest to be met there is a need to acknowledge the fact that English has been undergoing profound changes. That is why it is advocated today that the teaching of pronunciation should be done under the framework of English as an International Language (Kachru, 1986; Jenkins, 2002).
The second principle is grounded in psychological affects and it recommends keeping affective considerations firmly in mind in the course of teaching pronunciation. This is because before students embark on pronunciation instruction, they might have built their own knowledge and representations of how to pronounce words in English. The meeting between the old information and the new knowledge brought in by the teacher can result in a conflict between the learners and the teacher and between the learner’s old knowledge and the new knowledge he is being introduced to. This resistance should be tackled with tact and professionalism so as to make the learner feel the need to readjust their pronunciation thus, facilitating learning to take place. Here teachers need to provide learners with generous degrees of affective support in order to pull down the obstacles that may prevent learners from building their competences In the third principle, it is recommended to avoid the teaching of individual sounds in isolation. This principle is closely related to the first principle whose target is intelligibility and cannot be separated from it. For this reason, it is of utmost importance for teachers to embed whatever sounds or sound patterns are the focus of instruction within the connected stretches of speech. Lessons are more effective when their pronunciation items are presented in contexts of whole phrases, short sentences, and interactive classroom tasks. As for the classroom activities, they should provide endless opportunities for learners to communicate meaningfully with each other and more interesting, enjoyable, and memorable. The ultimate goals of such pedagogic choices are to enhance speech intelligibility and fluency.
Another important principle is for teachers to provide feedback on learner’s progress. The importance of providing feedback in a learning process cannot be overemphasized. In teaching pronunciation, teachers need to support learners’ efforts, guide them, and provide cues for improvement. This will go a long way to raise learners’ awareness about their individual difficulties and work them out properly. Such feedback may be provided by the teacher trainer, the classroom teacher, peers, and through self-awareness training in conjunction with live analysis, video, and/or audio recordings (Nunan, op.cit.).
The last principle established is to realize that ultimately, it is the learner who is in control of changes in pronunciation. Learner-centeredness is a driving force that is at the centre of any learning experience. For learning to be effective in a pronunciation course, the teacher cannot force learners to overcome their difficulties. Learners should instead appropriate the learning opportunities presented them so as to take control of what they want to master. This way, teachers can only provide guidance and practice opportunities, but learners are the ones who are in charge of making any changes that may ultimately take place. Again, Morley (1994) speaks of the pronunciation teacher as a “language coach” who “supplies information, gives models from time to time, sets high standards, provides a wide variety of practice opportunities, and supports and encourages the learner”.
Teaching pronunciation may not only end at the level of mastering key principles though quite interesting and necessary. It could be worth going an extra mile of these principles and background to the teaching of pronunciation to include some classroom techniques and tasks. By doing this, the teaching of pronunciation could be more effective and the input provided in teacher training colleges more comprehensible and suitable to prepare future teachers to teach with ease during practicum and upon graduation. The part that follows dwells on classroom techniques and tasks.
Classroom techniques and tasks in teaching pronunciation
In this part, we review a few of the most popular activity types and teaching strategies that nowadays’ up-to-date teachers use in pronunciation instruction. These include openness to change, contextualized minimal pairs, gadgets and props, slow motion speaking, tracking, and techniques from drama and theatre arts.
As concerns openness to change, it is suggested that it is necessary to spend some time building learners’ self-confidence and attending to their emotional needs as speakers of a new language at the beginning of the course. This phase could be likened to a needs’ analysis strategy whereby learners are allowed to voice what they think is their strength as speakers of English. Similarly, these students could also be asked to talk about their areas of difficulties and frustration. By doing this, the teacher demonstrates concerns for emotional needs. In a related vein, Laroy (1995) suggests asking learners to speak in their native languages while mimicking a native English speaker’s way of pronouncing their own language. By doing this, learners will find the differences of accent that may exist between somebody trying to speak another language. This will be seen through exaggerations and shortcomings identified in the speech.