Oral Communication in English at ”Elisa Zamfirescu” Technological School

The main aim is to present and analyze the problems technological school students face when being involved in an oral communication in English as well as try to combat the errors they make while speaking. To attain this aim, in my research I compared the theoretical aspects with students’ and teachers experiences. Effort was made to identify, describe and explain possible casual factors of errors.

Error is as an inseparable part of learners’ interlanguage development by the communicative language approach. The notion of error gradually changed from efforts to completely repress and eradicate error by behaviourists, over theoretical predictions by contrastive analysts and error analysts, to finally accepting error as an inseparable part of learners’ interlanguage development by the communicative language approach.

Errors must be seen as learning steps – as a natural part of the learning process. It is rather problematic to define error, since the notion of accuracy, correctness or native-speaker norm is rather vague. It has been pointed out that it is necessary to distinguish between error and mistake due to their differing nature, which consequently influences decisions on correction: while teachers should consider correction of errors, it is not the case with mistakes, which are only momentary lapses of memory or tongue. It has been observed that the possible sources of error are numerous and that only very few of them can be limited by teachers; attentive correction is thus even more important, since it is hardly possible to prevent errors from happening. Furthermore, it has been argued that it is necessary for teachers to be aware of different types of error, since it heavily influences the way they should correct, too. In the era of communicative approach to teaching, it is mainly the aspect of successful communication that influences decisions whether to correct individual errors or not.

It has been shown that error correction is one type of error feedback that learners can receive on their errors only, and that it is not necessary – or even desirable – to correct every error that occurs. It has also been observed that correction is a very complex issue which includes several decisions teachers have to make before actually carrying out any correction as such. Teachers should try to find the right balance between over-correcting and non-correcting; correction in general, however, is always more effective than no correction at all. Overall, it has been pointed out that teachers should mainly correct errors preventing successful communication; the way they should correct should not be threatening and should try to fit the learners’ needs. All correction should be done with the specific learner and situation in mind. Teachers should also give enough space to self-correction, since it supports the learning process the most. It has been stressed that the most effective ways of correcting are explicit, output-prompting strategies (elicitation, paralinguistic feedback and others). Most importantly, correction should be perceived as a means of helping learners rather than criticising their performance.

Questionnaires for this study were used to collect data both from students and teachers of English. Based on the findings of the study made at Colegiul Tehnic “Elisa Zamfirescu” which involved a number of 55 students, we can conclude that students favor corrections of language errors, but there are a small number of students who do not like when their oral errors in grammar or other areas of language learning are corrected. These students are against correcting each minor error they make. Something more, making a comparison between students’ will and theory, the recent theory on language acquisition and teaching methodology discourage the correction of all errors. The students wish is to experience error correction by correcting their own errors, this way realizing whether they are really learning the English language.

Surprisingly, a few students’ option was to be corrected in the middle of an interaction, however it is much easier and better to postpone corrective feedback till the end of the exchange so that the flow of thought of the students not to be distracted and especially, not to place them in embarrassing situations.

The results of the survey have shown that most teachers’ opinions are in keeping with the laws of CLT. Majority of teachers see correction as a complex phenomenon and adapt their corrective strategies to numerous aspects, such as learners’ individual needs, level of English, anxiety, situation, type of activity and many others. Teachers have shown they prefer to correct sensitively and with regard to individual learners. They also see error as an inevitable part of learning rather than as something harmful. It was interesting to see that most of their opinions were similar to those of students’, who stated preference for the same types of correction – self-correction and explicit correction. Students have also stated that they want to be corrected.

Overall, both students and teachers showed great tolerance towards error and largely inclined towards the communicative approach to error and correction and showed that they know what is beneficial for the process of learning.
PBL (project based learnig) proved to be a successful teaching and learning method. The benefits students had during the implementation of the projects were the development of time management; as an instructional method they found out how to learn effectively, in fact they learnt how to learn. They learnt through their own experiences as well as from their peers. They found out the advantages anyone has when speaking an international language, in their case, English, as well as the advantages of accepting correcting or correct their own errors.

Students and teachers evidence proved that project based learning is a more popular method of instruction than traditional learning methods. Professionalism and collaboration among teachers increased significantly while it increased attendance, self – reliance, and improved attitude towards learning on the part of the students.

Speaking spontaneously in a foreign language, namely in English, may cause problems to fluent speakers as well. Teachers’ duty is to encourage students and even if they find it difficult to improvise they have to do it because this way they can develop all their speaking skills.

Teachers have to make students understand that correction is useful when making a mistake. Practice, self – confidence and self – esteem will help them in improving their speaking. Being able to speak spontaneously comes with time and a lot of exercise. It is evident that the more the students get used to the English language, the more natural it is for them to think in English and transform their ideas into spoken English.

 

prof. Olivia Pop

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/olivia.pop1

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