Strategies to Solve Speaking Problems Among Students

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This article discusses primary issues of teaching and learning speaking basically in intermediate level of English classes. Such problems as shyness, inhibition, lack of time and environment to practice speaking were indentified with the help of surveys conducted among 140 students.

However challenging the educating speaking is, these obstacles can be solved by utilizing practical approaches including shadowing, teaching-by-learning and 3+ hours speaking techniques. Language acquisition obligates hard work from both educators and students alike. In order to achieve advanced level of oral skill, teachers should apply those mentioned methods to language scholars in a comprehensive way.

Key words: EFL, fluency, accuracy, shadowing, learning-by-teaching strategy, three plus hours speaking, pronunciation, shyness, inhibition.

Introduction

Unlike the other fields, language pedagogy is considered the foremost challenging one in which patience, dedication, passion are highly demanded from teachers. Having observed university and private schools’ EFL classes as my preliminary analysis, I noticed such problems of language teaching as grammar translation methods, formal learning environment, and monotonous lessons with no creativity and visual aids, lack of enthusiasm, passive participation, and student dominance etc. The key issue I realized was that teaching and learning L2 verbal communication effectively.

It is no secret that speaking is the most difficult aspect of every language which requires more practice, confidence including real-time comprehension coupled with reaction. The objective of teaching and learning a foreign language is to achieve a proper communication in the target language at the end of the day (1). By viewing English classes, several major issues were disclosed in teaching and learning how to speak.

Students’ responses on what types of problems they had when learning speaking. This survey was conducted amongst 140 IELTS students.

Issues percentages

  1. Shyness and fear 32%
  2. Lack of practice 54%
  3. Limited time inside of a classroom 14%

First main difficulty is having a very shortage of time for students to develop their speaking skills inside of a classroom. Here in this table, lack of practice and limited time are interrelated with each other. It is very obvious from the chart that 54% of students had difficulties with doing practice and 14% with the time. This, in turn, ends up in a considerable degradation in the performance of scholars to express themselves orally. As language acquisition is a lengthy process, intensive training is needed from students. However, in Uzbekistan where English is taught as a foreign language, teachers are not able to expose learners to the target language actively within the given time at private educational centers let alone public schools.

Second challenge is that the majority of teachers are still faced with the daunting prospect of helping students to overcome their shyness and fear. The table shows that 32% of students are afraid of making grammatical or pronunciation errors in their speeches. Therefore, they prefer to stay calm in order to avoid being ashamed in front of their peers. Another reason for shyness is that language learners are usually embarrass from their own voice because different language sounds different which causes discomfort. The results of the poll carried out among 33 students showed that 70% of scholars admitted that they had been shy from their own voice.

It is undoubtedly true that no one is able to speak fluently unless they train until reaching the level that words flow out of your mouth naturally in L2. This is mainly because verbalizing your thoughts in a different language including processing grammar rules as well as vocabulary items in your mind simultaneously is notoriously hard for all learners. Nevertheless, there are a number of practical methods to solve the aforementioned speaking problems.

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The survey was carried out among 45 students who are above intermediate level and speak fluently in English. The given question was “What strategy helped you most”.

Strategies percentages

1. 3+ hours speaking 38%

2. Teaching somebody to speak 33%

3. Shadowing 29%

Learning-by-teaching strategy (3+ hours speaking).

Practice is a key to success but not all teachers can ensure that their students are practicing English speaking. Without practicing more than three hours a day, students can never reach C1 level of speaking. In order to meet this need, educators should create an opportunity for their students to do the learning-by-teaching. Learning by teaching is an extremely practical way of consolidating what you have learned. Students spent time on teaching what they have learned show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply focused on re-studying (4). This is “killing two birds with one stone”.

Teachers should urge their students to educate the lower level of scholars from speaking and vocabulary so that they can ensure 3+ hour speaking strategy. 2, 33 percent of students improved their fluency by teaching and 38% of students used three plus hours speaking method. After communicating in your L2 more than 3 hours, your tongue automatically switches from your native language to L2. According the facts, your articulators (e.g. tongue, lips, and teeth) need many hours of practice by moving around and making specific sounds in your learning language (3).

Shadowing technique

Shadowing is an experimental technique of repeating the speech immediately after listening which enables language learners to enhance their fluency and accuracy.

The way it works is that a learner should find an interview of a person from the internet who must be a native speaker (mostly famous people such as singers, actors or actress, CEOs, maybe a well-known person with a good body language and pronunciation). After downloading their interviews, the learner should watch the video again and again till he closely copies the verbal behavior of that native speaker such as the pitches, the pronunciation, gestures, and body language. Why should it be an interview not a movie or a cartoon? Because in the interview the speaker is usually unprepared.

Therefore, the interviewee stutters a bit and even hesitates while answering to unexpected questions which sound more natural, whereas in cartoons or movies, the scenario is exact. In doing so, students will learn how to avoid crutch words in their speeches, be able to create utterances and pronounce words relatively error-free with a natural body language (3). Indeed, they can eliminate their shyness and fear after shadowing as it builds confidence in them. This approach was proven effective when it was applied to 20 upper-intermediate students (5).

Conclusion

Among the other language aspects, speaking is perceived as an ultimate goal of skill to acquire. Nonetheless, in accordance with the time matter, lack of practice in the classroom condition, shyness and fear of making mistakes are what makes verbal proficiency in foreign language difficult to achieve. By observing speaking classes, I chose 3+ hour speaking, shadowing and learning-by-teaching techniques. This is mainly because these approaches suggested by well-experienced IELTS instructors. If those three methods are used in a fixed way, students can successfully bring about native-like fluency. The more intensively they use these strategies, the more fluent they become.

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