08 January 2017

Improving English Speaking Skills through Technology

Speaking is a delivery of language through the mouth. We speak primarily to be able to get our message across to our target receiver. We speak to be heard and to get understood. Through speaking we get clarified on things that confuse us. It is also through oral communication that we are able to build a good relationship with our family and the community we live in. Thus, this vocalized form of language is essential in performing most of our day-to-day activities.

However, there is more to speaking than how we normally see it. In English language it is a skill along with four others – reading, writing, viewing and listening - that every English language learner has to develop in their selves. It is specifically a productive skill that involves oral production which requires the use of appropriate vocabulary, correct pronunciation of the word, and fluency.

The goal of teaching speaking is to develop communicative efficiency among students. However, in as much as the learners wish to perfect their English oral communication skills, there are different factors that hinder them from developing such skills like refusal to use the language in a classroom discussion due to lack of confidence and the fear of being laughed at among others. This case is especially true to most of the Grade 11 students in Assumption Academy of Compostela. At their grade level, most of them are still poor in English language speaking. They do understand the uttered words and some materials read but could barely speak using the language.

From the beginning of an English class, these students have been oriented and constantly reminded from time to time about the use of the English language all throughout the class in answering questions asked by the teacher, in posing queries, in clarifying or whenever they want to be heard. These supposed language classroom rule however, affect the performance of the students in terms of participation.

Classroom activities such as group discussion, reporting and presentations are carried out through the use of the vernacular language most of the time. This is primarily because they lack the essential speaking skills such as the use of appropriate vocabulary, correct pronunciation of the word(s), and the articulation itself. The only time they can use the language is when they read what they are presenting but when it comes to giving details and explanation, they would switch back to using the native language.

This speaking inability of the students is also observed by other English language teachers in the school who has happens to have the same frustration. They too would want to correct the problem but there are a few factors that prevents them from doing so such as the failure of some teachers whose subject taught is supposed to use the English language in delivering instruction, the poor implementation of English speaking zones around the school campus and still, the seemingly sad but true occurrence of bullying. Although to some students, laughing and teasing might not necessarily mean bullying but all still boils down to that fear of being laughed at.

Instead of speaking their mind out, students prefer to stay quiet on their seats. They seemed to melt away if not frightened every time the teacher walks around the class and start asking questions or soliciting ideas. They would rather listen than speak - making it frustrating for an English language teacher – in this case, the researcher.

To validate the decision of whether to pursue the study or not, the researcher conducted a quick survey to all Grade 11 students in Assumption Academy of Compostela. The question asked is “Which among the four macro-skills in English language (reading, writing, listening and speaking) you find the most difficult to develop? The researcher wrote all four macro-skills on the board and asked each student to tally their vote to their corresponding answer. In all four sections of Grade 11, majority of the students claimed that for them speaking indeed is the most difficult. And to understand further, the researcher also solicited explanations from the students as to why they find speaking difficult. Lack of vocabulary, fear of committing grammatical error and afraid of being laughed among others are the reasons why most students opt not to speak and such reasons are what hinders them to develop confidence in using the language.

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While the researcher believes that technology is the language of today’s generation, she is convinced that through it the problem of the students’ inability to speak using the English language can be addressed.

Technology is dynamic. It captures attention in every way possible. Compared to the conventional language classroom, the employment of technological tools in giving instruction offers students a venue for interesting and engaging activities. It ensures student-centeredness and autonomy, thus, provide high opportunity for them to practice reading, writing, listening and speaking at their own pace and in a realistic manner. Most importantly, it enhances the level of students’ motivation and confidence which are crucial in foreign language learning.