The Impact of Phonetic and Phonological Instruction on the Oral Proficiency of Spanish-speaking ESL Learners

| December 28, 2009
The Impact of Phonetic and Phonological Instruction on the Oral Proficiency of Spanish-speaking ESL Learners

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Hsuan-Yu Chen & Jaya S. Gowsami

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Oral proficiency has been one of the important goals in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) because it is important not only in communication, but also in reading and writing, which pave the path to academic achievement. Phonetic and phonological awareness, as related to oral proficiency, cannot be assumed with second language learners as with native speakers acquiring their mother tongue. Therefore, whether phonetic/phonological instruction should be implemented in ESL settings or not, and if so, to what extent, have become important issues for ESL instructors. Different approaches have been incorporated in the curricula; however, neither pronunciation transcription systems nor Phonics has shown satisfactory success in assisting ESL students in achieving oral proficiency in Standard American English (SAE). In both Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), which are stages of second language development (Cummins, 1976), oral proficiency centralizes and substantiates the skills and strategies required in such areas. In the U.S., Spanish-speaking ESL learners general tendency of underachievement in reading performance (NCES, 2007) may be attributed to deficiency in oral proficiency, which can result in problems in reading proficiency. This quasi-experiment with a pre-post test design investigated the effect of phonetic and phonological instruction on Spanish-speaking ESL students articulation of individual target phonemes at word and sentence levels. Findings showed statistically significant improvement in the oral proficiency of target phonemes of ESL students after the implementation of phonetic/phonological instruction. Pedagogical implications of the results are discussed to offer possible assistance to Spanish-speaking ESL students in the area of English oral proficiency.

[private] See page: 111 – 123

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 11 Issue 5