Second Language Acquisition and Effective Communication
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SubjectPhonetics; Second Language; Higher Education; education; Effective Communication; French; Communication
The purpose of this study was to find efficient ways to help students improve their French pronunciation within a communication-oriented language classroom. As far as second language acquisition and comprehensible output are concerned, there is a myriad of articles mainly quantitative, analyzing students’ performances, but the analysis of students’ experiences and feelings in regard to the various activities foreign-language teachers use in their classrooms seems to suffer from a serious neglect. Thus, this study consists first of a pretest posttest analysis of students’ performances before and after phonetics instructions and also aims at exploring students’ perceptions of French phonetic instructions, to determine whether they found them useful or not and if they would have preferred other activities to improve their pronunciation of the target language. Guiding questions were: Did they perform better after the phonetics instructions or not? What were their first impressions when they first encountered French phonetics? How would they describe them? Did they find phonetics instructions helpful?Meaningful? Confusing? Do they think about any other activity that could help them communicate more effectively and produce a more comprehensible output? For the purpose of this study, a quantitative analysis as well as a phenomenological qualitative design was used. Indeed, the researcher first taught phonetics to her 1010 students and then interviewed them (20 students aged 18 to 28). The students were studying Elementary French 1010 in a Liberal Arts College. First of all, the students’ French pronunciation was checked through a pretest, then they received French phonetics instructions throughout the second-half of the Fall semester. At the very end of the semester, the researcher gave them a posttest and interviewed them separately in order to have a better understanding of the students’ perceptions of this activity. As far as the results are concerned, the pretest-posttest analysis revealed a general improvement of the students’ French pronunciation and the researcher could identify some recurrent themes in the students’ answers given during the interviews. One of those themes was a shared perceived challenge during the first class introducing phonetics – that is to say – to learn all of this new alphabet and being able to properly read it while being already struggling and overwhelmed by the learning of a new language. Then, there was also a perceived improvement of their French pronunciation which encouraged them to be more self-confident and more eager to participate in class. Finally, apart from phonetics instructions, repetition exercises also appeared to be perceived as a very helpful way to improve their French pronunciation. For future studies, it would be very interesting to compare students’ feelings towards phonetics when they are having those phonetics instructions at an elementary level and when they receive the instructions at an advanced level.
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