DEVELOPING UKRAINIAN LEARNERS’ PRONUNCIATION SKILLS THROUGH DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPEECH ACTIVITY

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УДК: 37.016:81’801.612

A.A. Kalyta, L.I. Taranenko

National Technical University of Ukraine «Kyiv Polytechnic Institute»

 

РОЗВИТОК ВИМОВНИХ НАВИЧОК В УКРАЇНСЬКИХ СТУДЕНТІВ У РІЗНИХ ВИДАХ МОВЛЕННЄВОЇ ДІЯЛЬНОСТІ

 

РАЗВИТИЕ ПРОИЗНОСИТЕЛЬНЫХ НАВЫКОВ В УКРАИНСКИХ СТУДЕНТОВ В РАЗНЫХ ВИДАХ РЕЧЕВОЙ ДЕЯТЕЛЬНОСТИ

 

In the article the authors present an integrated approach to teaching English pronunciation to the Ukrainian learners who specialise in English as their future profession. This approach is viewed in the paper as a means of developing the Ukrainian learners’ English pronunciation skills through teaching them different types of speech activity: listening comprehension, reading, writing and speaking. Besides, the approach to teaching pronunciation advanced in this paper takes full account of the importance of context as a means for successful L2 pronunciation learning. In the article the authors give methodological guidelines on teaching pronunciation and describe types of instructions that can be integrated into L2 practical phonetics classes. The exercises presented in the paper could be effectively used in teaching process which may result in the students’ acquiring pronunciation norm and the ability to recognize different intonation patterns as well as develop their English language competence for effective speaking, reading and writing. The paper also substantiates the expediency of the offered integrated approach implementation to teaching English pronunciation, contributing to more effective L2 English pronunciation learning and teaching.

Key words: integrated approach, teaching English pronunciation, types of speech activity, listening comprehension, reading, writing, speaking, Ukrainian learners’ pronunciation of L2, practical phonetics.

У статті викладено інтегрований підхід до навчання українських студентів-майбутніх перекладачів і викладачів англійської вимови. Такий підхід розглядається у праці як засіб формування й розвитку в українських студентів коректної англійської вимови під час декодування, розпізнавання, розуміння, запам’ятовування і кодування інформації в різних видах мовленнєвої діяльності (аудіювання, читання, письмо, говоріння). Шляхом пояснення фонетичної термінології, пов’язаної з набуттям студентами навичок коректної вимови, автори статті дають практичні рекомендації та наводять приклади завдань, спрямовані на поліпшення вимови студентів у процесі їхнього навчання аудіювання, читання, письма і говоріння.

Ключові слова: інтегрований підхід, навчання англійської вимови, види мовленнєвої діяльності, аудіювання, читання, письмо, говоріння, L2 вимова українських студентів, практична фонетика.

В статье изложен интегрированный подход к обучению украинских студентов-будущих переводчиков и преподавателей английскому произношению. Такой подход рассматривается в работе как средство формирования и развития в украинских студентов корректного английского произношения при декодировании, распознавании, понимании, запоминании и кодировании информации в различных видах речевой деятельности (аудирование, чтение, письмо, говорение). Путем объяснения фонетической терминологии, связанной с приобретением студентами навыков корректного произношения, авторы статьи дают практические рекомендации и приводят примеры заданий, направленных на улучшение произношения студентов в процессе их обучения аудированию, чтению, письму и говорению.

Ключевые слова: интегрированный подход, обучение английского произношения, виды речевой деятельности, аудирование, чтение, письмо, говорение, L2 произношение украинских студентов, практическая фонетика.

 

In the course of teaching practical English phonetics to Ukrainian students it is essential to pay special attention to the development of all types of speech activity: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

While teaching pronunciation it should be kept in mind that listening comprehension naturally goes hand-in-hand with mastering pronunciation as “the perceptive and productive processes of the spoken medium of language” [1, p. 5]. Therefore, listening comprehension may rightly be incorporated into the programmes of teaching pronunciation as an integral part of the perception skills development.

In classes of practical English phonetics listening comprehension embraces phonematic hearing, intonation analysis, as well as learning how to extract emotional and modal meaning of intonation in a context (context based analysis, or CA). Besides, listening is an obligatory element of the text prosody interpretation so it easily works with new or already studied texts of various styles (formal, friendly, conversational, oratorial, belle-letter, etc.) and forms of speech (dialogues and monologues) at different class stages with varying objectives.

This activity can be employed during the introduction of a new material, advanced stage of a skill development or revision. An important moment here is to lift lexico-grammatical and pronunciation difficulties before the task itself and to give clear and definite phonetic instructions, for instance: listen to the text and define its style; state the degree of familiarity between the interlocutors; divide the utterance / text into intonation groups; mark the stressed words in them; find out the word that takes a nuclear tone; define its type; single out the emotionally colored words; define the prosodic means of emphasizing semantically important words in the utterance / text; establish a set of nuclear tones actualized in the utterances expressing a certain feeling / emotion; compare prosodic organisation of the utterances containing enumeration, direct address, parenthesis and the like. The instructions have to be of a purely phonetic nature or be related to the communication context influencing intonation. The listening stage must then be followed by a detailed analysis of phonetic phenomena; discussion of a certain phenomenon and / or its aspects and regularities grounded on the related topic, followed by reading the text or its fragments (if the text is familiar); or transferring the skills and knowledge to the speaking practice or written assignments.

One of the goals of teaching pronunciation is developing skills of reading texts of different styles and genres. The tasks can be varied and combined with other forms of work such as: (1) find in the text: (a) the utterances containing, e.g., enumeration, explain the differences in their prosodic organization, if any; read them out loud; (b) the passages expressing certain emotions or attitudes; read them imitating the speaker’s intonation; (c) the utterances containing replies, concentrate on their intonation organisation, mark the types of nuclear tones they take, read the replies, expressing polite and friendly attitude towards the speaker; (2) get ready with the expressive reading of the text / fragment, having preliminarily discussed the distribution of pauses, terminal tones, stresses and scales, etc.; (3) dramatize the text, using a complex of vocalic (intonation) and non-vocalic (mimics and gestures) means to convey the contextual emotions, feelings and the like.

To make the reading activities more efficient one has to perform preparatory drills, to revise scales, nuclear tones, rules of syntagmatic division and so on, to lift lexical and pronunciation difficulties, to find and discuss potentially problematic parts of the text, to describe the cases of assimilation or reduction, to present graphically the intonation of the text most difficult passages. It is important to analyze mistakes and to work out recommendations for correcting them, to discuss the intonation structure and functions, and to develop syntagmatic division skills.

The ultimate purpose of teaching is, no doubt, the production of intonationally correct and adequate oral English speech. The gained skills of listening comprehension, reading, writing and prosodic text interpretation should all find their final outlet in the speaking per se.

After choral work, imitation, reading, learning by heart one has to transfer the acquired skills to true to life situations, for instance: ask your friend about the best route to get to the library / theatre, etc.; explain on the phone how to get to your place / hospital / shopping mall, etc.; give instructions to the patient how to take pills / medicine; tell your friends a joke / funny story, etc.; comfort your friend, who is upset; express your discontent / admiration / doubt / surprise, etc.

Explanations, discussions and analyses prove to be a good tool for the speaking skills development.

At different stages of work with the educational texts one has to draw the learners’ attention to the interaction of all language means, for example: What are the dominant means of expressing surprise in the following utterance?; Find out the parts of speech that bear the logical / emphatic stress in the utterance?; Define the style and pragmatic orientation of the utterance / text, dominant and subordinate feelings, modal meanings, emphatic centres of the utterance / text, etc., and it is recommended to analyse the interaction of prosodic subsystems in the actualized speech.

To develop writing techniques it is advisable to regularly check the spelling of linguistic terms as well as the words used in the course of intonation analysis. The tasks like complete the sentence; chose synonyms / antonyms; paraphrase the utterance etc. done both in writing and orally, undoubtedly, help develop and reinforce the skills of the adequate logic thought expression and, subsequently, phonetic analysis.

We find it important that learners analyse utterance and text pragmatics, sound modifications, etc., in writing. One also should focus on the accuracy of writing while transcribing the texts or drawing their tonograms, observing the zone limits (differences between the pitches of terminal tones, stressed syllables, modifications of terminal tones, etc.).

To perfect the skills of writing, speaking and conducting phonetic analysis, we suggest that the learners compile the phonetic glossary of words and phrases for the intonation analysis (e.g. The following prosodic means joined together create the effect of emphatic admiration; the effect is achieved through the interaction of certain prosodic subsystems).

The assignments below prove to be both creative and efficient for the individual work, performed in writing, e.g.: Prove that the text belongs to colloquial style; Define the sets of prosodic means employed by the speaker to highlight the semantically important words; Analyze the sentences containing author’s words from the point of view of their prosodic organization; Chose five complex / compound sentences from the book for your home reading, lay stress-and-tone marks, draw tonograms; Get ready to read the sentences in accordance with their pragmatic aim, style, etc.

At the advanced stage the learners are recommended to practise individual presentations on theoretical topics (according to their interests); other learners, or a partner in case of pair work, could analyze and evaluate the performance. To increase the mutual efficiency the students need to specify the details of the report; they have to ask the reporter to exemplify the ideas of the text; to check whether the students know the spelling of the terms, i.e. play the role of a fault-finding examiner; together they can discuss the issue, enumerate main propositions, exceptions and so on. Individual tasks can be designed to concretize the theoretical knowledge, relate it to the speech communication practice: explain the differences between pronunciation of a word and its spelling; analyze the intonation organization of the utterance; find and explain the cases of obligatory assimilation; pronounce the sentence with the descending stepping or sliding scale, explain the differences in the sentence meaning, do it in writing; provide a few possible prosodic realizations of the same sentence, present them graphically and comment on the differences in the modal meanings; read the fragment observing the rules of stress distribution and intonation organization, explain your choice, etc.

These exercises are designed to evaluate the Ukrainian learners’ pronunciation and give them an insight into the English language and the ways it operates in real communicative situations.

It is advisable that a typical unit [3; 4] should contain tasks practising the new terms, vocabulary, grammar structures, sound and intonation patterns, reading rules and reading techniques as well as the exercises based on the texts of fables and fairy tales. The choice of the fables and fairy tales as a language matter was primarily determined by their specific textual features. In the first place, being short literary compositions they provide concise information. Besides, students are usually familiar with the plots of the stories from their childhood and elementary grades, which enables them to focus their attention rather on the language of expression than on what is expressed. Moreover, using fables and fairy tales as the language material we can educate learners since their texts serve as a commentary on human behaviour, highlighting the follies or virtues.

Exercises based on the texts of fables and fairy tales consist of four sections covering sound and intonation practice, listening comprehension, reading and writing activities. These exercises are aimed at giving the learners sufficient practice in identifying different sounds, sound clusters and intonation patterns as well as at developing their reading, speaking and writing skills through listening comprehension.

Some of the tasks are accompanied by concise explanations to give students the clearest possible understanding of a certain phonetic phenomenon and the way it functions which help the learners overcome difficulties in acquiring English pronunciation, vocabulary items, and grammar structures as well as improve their listening comprehension and writing skills and make their communication in English easy and successful. All teaching material is organised according to the Curriculum for English Language Development for Years One to Four in Universities and Institutes of Ukraine.

The following is the script of the Aesop’s fable “The Dog and his Reflection” with listening comprehension, writing and pronunciation exercises. The main aim of the tasks is to give the learners practice in identifying different sounds, sound-combinations and intonation patterns, as well as to develop their writing skills through listening comprehension. As one skill cannot be performed without others, such an approach permits to incorporate different skills in their close relation into the learning process. In such a context developing effective listening comprehension skills can lead not only to the improved listening but also to better pronunciation, reading, speaking and writing.

The recorded units can be performed by a learner both in class and after classes in a language laboratory or working alone at home using the recordings. When doing exercises he/she may also need to pause the recording after each sentence to give him/her time to think or to write his/her answers. When a student is instructed to repeat single words there is a pause in the recording for him/her to do so.

The Dog and his Reflection [2]

One day, a dog took a bone from a shop. He ran off with it before anyone could catch him. He came to a river and went over the bridge. As he looked down into the water, he saw another dog with a bone!  He did not know that the dog he saw in the water was a reflection of himself. “That dog has a big bone. It is as big as mine,” he said. “I will jump into the water and take it from him”. So in he jumped.  When he was in the water, he could not see the other dog. And he could not see the other bone either. He had lost his own bone, too, because it fell as he jumped in. So, because he was greedy, he got nothing in the end.

Moral: If you want more because you are greedy, in the end you might find you have less.

Exercises based on the text of the fable

Sound Practice

  1. Listen and repeat* (*all the exercises marked by the asterisk are recorded, that is why the students can only listen to the recorded words taken from the text of the fable, improving their listening comprehension).
  2. Listen to the following sound contrasts, practise their pronunciation.
/i:/ – /I/ /I/ – /e/ /e/ – /{/
he – his with – went less – has
see – with in – end said – that
the – is will – when fell – ran
greedy – bridge nothing – anyone end – catch
  1. Spell the words according to their transcription.
/hi: hIm les h{z
si: hIz sed D{t
Di: bIg fel r{n
gri:dI brIdZ wen k{tS/
  1. D. Listen and transcribe the words you hear*.
  2. E. Transcribe the words containing the vowels /i:, I, e, {/ in the sentences you hear*.
  3. Transcribe the words containing the vowel and consonant phonemes you have learnt. Read them. State the most frequent vowel in the words you have transcribed.
  4. G. Define the stress patterns of disyllabic and three-syllable words in the fable. Note: the symbol [ | ] stands for a stressed syllable; the symbol [ È ] stands for an unstressed syllable.

Intonation Practice

  1. Listen to each sentence of the fable, write down the most prominent word(s) in it, mark the nuclear tone it (they) takes (take)*.
  2. Listen to the sentences, write them down, mark stressed words in them*.
  3. Listen to the recorded sentences, write the words on which the pitch changes its direction*.
  4. Classify the intonation groups you hear according to the nuclear tones. Mark the falling tone with the letter F, the rising tone with the letter R*.

Example: A dog took a bone from the shop — F.

Comprehension Practice

  1. A. Write down your answers to the following questions revealing the plot of the fable*.
  2. Listen to the text, divide it into communicative blocks, entitle them*.
  3. Listen to the text, find the logical centre of each communicative block and of the whole text*. Write them down.
  4. D. Read the jumbled sentences and put them in the right order to complete the fable:
  5. As he looked down into the water, he saw another dog with a bone!
  6. So in he jumped.
  7. He had lost his own bone, too, because it fell as he jumped in.
  8. One day, a dog took a bone from a shop.
  9. He did not know that the dog he saw in the water was a reflection of himself.
  10. When he was in the water, he could not see the other dog.
  11. So, because he was greedy, he got nothing in the end.
  12. He ran off with it before anyone could catch him.
  13. If you want more because you are greedy, in the end you might find you have less.
  14. And he could not see the other bone either.
  15. “That dog has a big bone.”
  16. He came to a river and went over the bridge.
  17. “It is as big as mine,” he said.
  18. Moral:
  19. “I will jump into the water and take it from him”.

Written Practice

  1. A. Complete the following sentences from memory:
  2. a) One day…
  3. b) He came to a river…
  4. c) …he saw another dog with a bone.
  5. d) He didn’t know that…
  6. e) “I will jump into the water”…
  7. f) When he was in the water…
  8. g) And he could not see…
  9. h) He had lost his own bone, too, because… .
  10. B. Find in the text the reason the dog jumped into the water, write it down.
  11. C. Comment on the moral of the fable describing the greedy dog. What do you think the author’s attitude towards greediness is (positive or negative)? Do it in writing.
  12. D. Write alternative, yes/no-questions, tag- and wh-questions (three for each type) referring to the plot of the fable.
  13. State the grammar tenses in the narration. Give reasons for the Present Simple and Past Simple functioning in the fable. Write down the Present Simple of the irregular verbs mentioned in the text.
  14. Write the fable in the Present Simple Tense.
  15. Write down your own story, which proves the moral of the fable.

As we see, by stressing the link between phonetic, lexical and grammatical levels of the language, the suggested sample of exercises promotes an integrated approach to the language matter presentation and its acquisition. While performing such exercises regularly, students will begin to recognise the communicative patterns as well as pronunciation norms and will develop a competence for effective reading and speaking.

The experience gained by the authors in the course of exercises implementation into the teaching process shows that the offered integrated approach to teaching pronunciation results not only in the students’ acquiring pronunciation norm and the ability to recognize different intonation patterns but also develops their English language competence for effective speaking, reading and writing.

Literature used

  1. Brown A. Approaching to Pronunciation Teaching / A. Brown. – L.: Modern English Publications in association with The British Council, 1995.
  2. Handford S. Fables of Aesop / S. Handford. – L.: Penguin books, 1964.
  3. Калита А.А. Посібник для самостійної роботи з практичної фонетики англійської мови (1 курс) / А.А. Калита, Л.І. Тараненко, А.В. Свіщевська. – К.: Видавничий центр КНЛУ, 2004. – 72 с.
  4. Калита А.А. Посібник для самостійної роботи з англійської мови (І курс) (англ. мовою) / The Self-Study Guide in English (1st year) / А.А. Калита, Л.І. Тараненко. – Тернопіль: Підручники і посібники, 2011. – 80 с.
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