An investigation into methods of developing oral fluency in foreign language teaching

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [UOV University of Oviedo]On: 20 October 2014, At: 05:57Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>The Vocational Aspect of EducationPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjve19</p><p>An investigation into methods ofdeveloping oral fluency in foreign languageteachingMarie-Christine Fysh aa Erith College of TechnologyPublished online: 25 Jun 2008.</p><p>To cite this article: Marie-Christine Fysh (1990) An investigation into methods of developing oralfluency in foreign language teaching, The Vocational Aspect of Education, 42:111, 19-23, DOI:10.1080/13636829008619466</p><p>To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13636829008619466</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis, ouragents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as to theaccuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, and are not the viewsof or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Content should not be relied uponand should be independently verified with primary sources of information. Taylor and Francisshall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses,damages, and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or indirectly inconnection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantialor systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access anduse can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p><p>http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjve19http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/13636829008619466http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13636829008619466http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions</p></li><li><p>The Vocational Aspect of Education (April 1990) Volume XLll, No. 111, pp. 19-23 </p><p>Research Report </p><p>An Investigation into Methods of Developing Oral Fluency in Foreign Language Teaching By MARIE-CHRISTINE FYSH </p><p>Erith College of Technology </p><p>Abstract This paper is an investigation into methods of developing oral fluency in foreign language classes. A general view of language, its role and functions in the process of learning is first presented, showing how a students" previous experience with language can have an influence on the behaviour and attitudes involved when they learn a foreign language. A review of some theories of foreign language teaching follows with special emphasis on the 'Communicative Approach'. Examples of teaching methods and activities encountered during Supervised Teaching Experience are then analysed. It is concluded that 'communicative" methods are well adapted to the achievement o f oral fluency on condition that special attention is given to creation o f an appropriate class atmosphere. </p><p>Role and function of language The first question I want to address is 'what is language?" 'Language is central to all human experience' [1], David Wilkins (1974) wrote in his book 'Linguistics in Language Teaching'. All humans have the ability to develop language, but this does not mean that language develops in a vacuum. It will not develop if a young child is reared among non-humans, as some examples have shown. This is important as it means that human society and environment play a decisive role. Language will develop in interaction with other human beings, and it has important social functions; it is essential for communication purposes: to share, to obtain and give information, to discuss, to express emotions and opin- ions, orders are among such functions. A child will acquire the language of his milieu, the accent, the register that he picks up from his environment. </p><p>So what happens when a child starts school? If his language is the language of the school and of the teacher the child will feel confident, he will be in known territory. If his language is not the language of the school, it could be a very traumatising experience. If the child feels that his language is devalued he will feel himself devalued, along with his world, his life, his experience. This is extremely important because language is central to the process of learning. It is through language that we think, relate a new experience to a previous one or to existing knowledge. Language is used to make sense of </p><p>what is presented to the child, to help interpret it and to reflect on it. A child's future attitude towards school and learning will depend a lot on his first teacher's reaction to his language. </p><p>What does this mean concretely for classroom prac- tice? In my opinion it means that teachers should encourage thinking aloud and exploratory talk and children should be given time to think about new knowledge and to express it, to relate it to previous knowledge, to make it theirs. This implies a more student-centred approach, with less presentation by the teacher and more scope for direct experience and interpretation by the pupils. </p><p>Implications for FE Why is it relevant to us in the modern language classroom in Further Education? Our students come to us not as 'empty vessels' (to use a cliche), but with a set of experiences which have influenced and still influence their behaviour. Their attitude to language and talk is heavily dependent on all that. If our students are not used to expressing themselves, to talking about their opinions and ideas in their first language it will be even more difficult to make them speak in a foreign language, because it is more threatening. To learn another language is to assent to reconsidering our relation to the world, our way of communicating with it. The new language is less mature, the learners are less articulate,, </p><p>19 </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UO</p><p>V U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> of </p><p>Ovi</p><p>edo]</p><p> at 0</p><p>5:57</p><p> 20 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>20 An Investigation into Methods of Developing Oral Fluency in Foreign Language Teaching </p><p>they cannot express themselves emotionally and intellec- tually at the same level as in their mother tongue. They very often feel foolish and vulnerable. </p><p>Review of approaches in foreign language teaching Current trends in language teaching are towards more oral work. It was not always the case. Previously, foreign languages were taught the way the classics are taught, that is for reading purposes, for erudition purposes, as most people could not really travel to use them anyway. Emphg~.~ was putD, a..tJlg-teaching of structures, formal rag~mar. There was hardly any oral work, sometimes none at all. Questions of the relevance of the language to the student's life and interests did not arise. It was certainly the way many of us were taught languages at school. We can all too readily remember rote learning of grammar rules and of examples which were completely meaningless. In my case, examples such as, 'my sister is not a boy' or 'the old soldier has a wooden leg', come immediately to mind. This method is called the Grammar-TranslAtka2_rfiethod and in modified form it continues to be used. Contemporary texts at college level often reflect Grammar-Translation principles. These textbooks are organised in chapters around a grammar point, very often texts or examples are either invented or taken from literature. </p><p>New theories never come randomly, as an event out of the blue but because needs change. Because people needed to travel more, to communicate, sometimes just for trading purposes, all types of new methods and approaches were tried out, sometimes only on a very small scale, such as 'The Silent Way', 'The Natural A ~ a c h ' , S u g g e s t d p e ~ l ~ e s p 0 n s C [2]. These m ~ based on psycho l ingu i~ theories of language: how languages are learnt, how knowledge of language is represented in the memory, or how language itself is structured, how childrn acquire their first language. Clearly a description of all of these theories is beyond the scope of this paper. It is interesting however, to point to two teaching methods, which predate psycholinguistic theories, both of which empha- size oral work, and which when looked at critically serve to show how significant these theories were. </p><p>First, the 'Oral approach and situational ~ : in this strong emphasis is put on oral practice, grammar and sentence patterns. Drills are related to situations. For example: the teacher shows objects which are in the class: "this is a pen', the students repeat 'this is a pen': listening, choral imitation, individual imitation, question-answer drilling, systematic correction, plus follow-up reading and writing activities, these are what this method is about. </p><p>Second, the 'Audiolingual method' which is be- haviourist. Language acquisition and learning occur according to a stimulus-response conditionin attern: stimulus causes res._~nse behaviour i and if there is </p><p>reinforcement the behaviour is likely to occur again and to become a habit. Dialogues and drills are the basis of classroom practice. Repetition and memorization are the main strategies. Focus is put on accuracy as opposed to fluency. </p><p>These two methods were both based on a structuralist view of language. Once you had practised and learnt the structures, you knew the language. There was little room for creative use of the langua[ge and for students' fluency ~ c t i ~ . Chom.ho.~m k~disagreed with this view of language. ~ Ac--~-0"~ing to him 'Language is not a habit structure', but 'sentences are not learned by imitation and repetition but 'generated' from the 'learner's underlying competence' [3 ]. </p><p>The communicative approach The approach I want to concentrate on, the cative Approach' orisinated from Chomsk_~_~criticisms of the two prevl~'~"-"a~'~us views of language. The theory behind it is that language is not just imitation, learning a language is more than learning structures. One's task as a teacher is to facilitate the students' creative use of language and his/ber ability to communicate effectively in the language. </p><p>But what is communication? To quote Johnson (198~) "There is more to the business of c o m m u n i i ~ n g than the ability to produce grammatically correct utterances' [4]. To communicate is also to know when to use, how to use or not to use the phrases or expressions; it is what Johnson calls ~ The ideal is to achieve the same flexibility, t h e ~ m e creativity that the native speaker possesses, using the right register in varied contexts. </p><p>The task is vast and real communicative fluency will never be reached only through classroom practice. But classroom practice can help. Linguistic experience should be as close as possible to real life situations, should be student-centered, meaningful and relevant so as to enable the student to develop his 'competence', to use Chomsky's word. </p><p>The Communicative Approach requires that students should be helped to become more independent and daring in their use of the foreign language. They should be encouraged to try out the language. If they do not try it out in the classroom they will have a lot of difficulties in doing it in the real world. ~ took t h e e of </p><p>: you can learn all the strokes out of the water and become very competent in theory but to jump in the pool and swim is another matter. When will you dare to jump? How will you be encouraged to do so? </p><p>There are strategies and activities that can help the students to jump. A lot of factors will have to be taken into account: the limitations of a syllabus, the size of the class, the age of the students, their background and expectations and their current fluency in the language. But there are some general ideas which can be applied in most cases. </p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>UO</p><p>V U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> of </p><p>Ovi</p><p>edo]</p><p> at 0</p><p>5:57</p><p> 20 </p><p>Oct</p><p>ober</p><p> 201</p><p>4 </p></li><li><p>MARIE-CHRISTINE FYSH 21 </p><p>What and how should we teach? Grammar, for example, will have to be taught, otherwise near-native fluency will never be possible and sometimes communi- cation would be impossible. But how can you do this in a meaningful context? If you follow the traditional Grammar-Translation method, you teach all the tenses one after the other, including conditional and subjunc- tive, even if you do not use them very often. If you teac.~ the language communicativelyj_ou will teach the past t~'~-WIF6"fi-ii is needed by the students to communicate, an~'-ffff you may ~ s u b ~ v e only the following year, when it will be useful to know it in order to use it. Clearly the latter approach has advantages in creating meaningfulness. </p><p>The content of the material used for teaching is an" important element as well. It has to be real and relevant to the students' life and interests A s ~ ~ a y s : 'The more students are interested in an activity in the target language, the more they feel the desire to communicate in the language' [5]. </p><p>There have been criticisms or worries about the 'Communicative Approach'. With more emphasis on language use in the classroom, there will be more students' errors [ Even if we agree that fluency has to be encouraged, should accuracy be encouraged or shall we forget about it? </p><p>I do not think that there is a contradiction between the notions of accuracy and fluency. We have to try to develop accuracy as well as fluency but not necessarily at the same time. When students are engaged in a creative activity, for instance a ~ w h e r e they have to argue for or against something or obtain information from their peers, the teacher is very unlikely to intervene if be/she hears incorrect language. The aim of the activity is to communicate for a purpose. But the teacher could make notes of the most frequent mistakes rind at another time ~ d e v a n t grammar points_ Othei activities could be more teacher-centered and focused on accuracy. Then feedback should be systemically provided. </p><p>Examples from Supervised Teaching Experience (STE) In my STE I observed and practised the 'Communicative Approach' and would like now to give examples of strategies and activities which can encourage oral fluency. My comments are based on observations of lessons conducted by other teachers, evaluation of my own lessons and/or recording of lessons or parts of lessons. The classes concerned were: GCSE French, BTEC National French option, A-level French last year and 2nd year, and 3 Adult Education classes: A-Level French, French Improvers: 2nd year and GCSE French. I ~ a ~ Education Class as well, Year 3 and an EFL (advanced) class. </p><p>The first element to consider is the general atmosphere of the class...</p></li></ul>

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