Kamis, 29 Desember 2011

Language Use and Speaking Strategies

Speakers of English, especially where it a second laguage, will have to be able to speak in a range of different genres and situations, and they will be able to use a range of conversational and conversational strategies. They will also expected to be able to survive in typical functional exchanges, too (Harmer, 2007). Having watched the three video clips of speaking strategies in International English Language Test System (IELTS), I would like to provide my opinions on the topic discussion, the language and learning strategies. This video pictured Ms. Osi, the teacher of the class, gave guidance and treatment to some students who are getting their IELTS speaking test.
From the observation, the class seems normal. In this case, Ms. Osi acted as a observer as participant where her presence was known by the group she was observing (Alwasilah, 2011). The discourse analysis particulary in taking turns was fluent. Teacher talked and students listened, and vice versa. There seemed no significant problems in discussion because the teacher encouraged the students in speaking English. She presented strategies-based instructions, a learner-centered approach to teaching that has two major components: (1) students are explicitly taught how, when, and why strategies can be used to facilitate language learning and language use tasks, and (2) strategies are integrated into everyday class materials, and may be explicitly or implicitly embedded into the language tasks. In other words, strategies-based instruction aims to assist learners in becoming more responsible for their efforts in learning and using the target language. It also aims to assist them in becoming more effective learners by allowing them to individualize the language learning experience.
 However, she applied teacher-centered approach instead of student-centered, which does not allow the students to improve their speaking ability. It was noticed there were some passive students and only several were actively responsed to the teacher’s stimulus. Students were seated individually while for speaking learning, it is in best condition if students are seated in pairwork or groupwork because it dramatically increases the number of talking of opportunities for individual students. Also, it allows teacher time to work with one or two pairs while the other students continue working (Harmer, 2007).
One of the factors that influence language learning is the age factors (Brown, 2007). The age of students is a major factor in teachers’ decisions about how and what to teach (Harmer, 2007). The students observed in the video can be categorized into adult learners. Their characteristics are (1) they can engage with abstract thought, (2) they have a whole range of life experience to draw on, (3) they have expectations about the learning process, and they already have their own set patterns of learning, (4) adults tend to be more disciplined than other age groups, and they are often prepared to struggle on despite boredom, (5) they come into classroom with a rich range of experiences which allow teachers to use a wide range of activities with them, (6) they often have a clear understanding of why they are learning and what they want to get out of it. Here, the teacher understood the age factors. She encouraged their students to use  their own life experience in the learning process, too.
The topic discussion was speaking strategies and learning how to use language. Strategies for language learning and language use have been receiving evergrowing attention in the areas of foreign language teaching and learning (Oxford 1990, Cohen 1990, O'Malley & Chamot 1990, Wenden 1991, Brown 1991, Rubin & Thompson 1994, Mendelsohn 1994, McDonough 1995 in Cohen, A. D. Weaver, S. J. and Li, T.Y. 1996). It is fair to say that language educators in many different contexts have been seeking ways to help students become more successful in their efforts to learn and communicate in foreign languages. A strategy is considered to be "effective" if it provides positive support to the students in their attempts to learn or use the foreign language. Seeing Ms. Osi teaching, she was seen as a great supporter of her students by giving positive feedback and when the students made mistakes, she corrected immediately without embarassing them.
The broad definition of foreign language learning and use strategies consists of the steps or actions selected by learners to improve the learning of a foreign language, the use of a foreign language, or both. Language learning strategies are used with the explicit goal of helping learners improve their knowledge and understanding of a target language. They are the conscious thoughts and behaviors used by students to facilitate language learning tasks and to personalize the language learning process. Language learning strategies have been differentiated into four distinct categories: cognitive, metacognitive, social, and affective (based on Chamot 1987, Oxford 1990). Cognitive strategies usually involve the identification, retention, storage, or retrieval of words, phrases, and other elements of the target language (e.g., using prior knowledge to comprehend new language material, applying grammar rules to a new context, or classifying vocabulary according to topic). Metacognitive strategies deal with pre-planning and self-assessment, on-line planning, monitoring and evaluation, as well as post-evaluation of language learning activities (e.g., previewing the language materials for the day's lesson, organizing one's thoughts before speaking, or reflecting on one's performance). Such strategies allow learners to control the learning process by helping them coordinate their efforts to plan, organize, and evaluate target language performance. Social strategies include the actions that learners select for interacting with other learners, a teacher, or with native speakers (e.g., asking questions for clarification, helping a fellow student complete a task, or cooperating with others). Affective strategies serve to regulate learner motivation, emotions, and attitudes (e.g., strategies for reducing anxiety, for self-encouragement, and for self-reward).
Language use strategies, in turn, include both language performance and communication strategies. Performance strategies include strategies for rehearsing target language structures, such as through form-focused practice. In the case of communication strategies, the focus is on getting a message across in the target language despite gaps in target language knowledge. For example, learners may use a new lexical item to communicate a thought in class. In the case of communication strategies, in contrast to performance strategies, the use of the language material (e.g., a new word) may purposefully be in order to learn it, as well as to communicate a thought. There have been relatively few studies investigating the benefits of providing second language learners with formal training in the applications of strategies for speaking. In one study, O'Malley and Chamot (1990) compared the improvement on certain language tasks for three groups of learners, and related the learners performance to the strategy training they had received. On the speaking task, the group given explicit training in metacognitive, cognitive, and social-affective strategies improved significantly more than the control group
        In conclusion, Ms. Osi has been done a good work as a teacher, motivator, supporter, corrector and she knows her students quite well. However, a further elaboration of teaching speaking strategies may be needed if she wants to continue her teaching on speaking area, particulary on the teaching approach and class management. Knowing the fact that learning strategies have become more and more popular among the scholars nowadays, professionals on speaking specialist are urgently needed to create an effective language learning and speaking strategies.

Alwasilah, A.C. 2011. Pokoknya Kualitatif. Jakarta: PT Dunia Pustaka Jaya.
Brown. H. D. 2007. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. 5th edition.
         Pearson. Longman ELT
Cohen, A. D. Weaver, S. J. and Li, T.Y. 1996. The Impact of Strategies-based
         Instruction on Speaking A Foreign Language. University of Minessota:
         Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.
Engleberg, I & Raimes, A. 2004. Pocket Keys for Speakers Lucas, S.E. (2001)
         The Art of Public Speaking (pp. 302-303)
Harmer, J. 2007. The Practice of English Language Teaching. 4th edition.
         Pearson Longman ELT
Nelson, P., Titsworth, S., & Pearson, J. 2007. Public Speaking A Guide for the
        Engaged Communicator (pp. 37, 146-147) UNCG University Speaking  
        Center, 256-1346, speakingcenter.uncg.edu

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