2. Enhancing the Speaking Skill of Second Language Learners Using Modern Technologies

posted 3 May 2011, 19:43 by Xavier Pradheep Singh   [ updated 9 Jul 2011, 06:57 ]
Assistant Professor in English 
V O Chidambaram College, Thoothukudi 

            For learners who are studying English as a second language, it is very important to experience real communicative situations in which they will learn how to express their own views and opinions, and to develop their oral fluency and accuracy which are very essential for the success of second language communication. Classroom interaction is necessary and useful as an educational strategy to enhance the skill of speaking. The role of interaction in the classroom context in enhancing the speaking skill comes from the understanding of its main types: teacher - learner interaction and learner-learner interaction, where negotiation of meaning and the provision of feedback are highlighted. Classroom interaction involves the verbal exchanges between learners and teachers. Teachers should know that the learners need to do most of the talk to activate their speaking, since speaking skill requires practice and exposure. 

How to cite this article:
MLA (7th Edition)
Chanthiramathi, V. "Enhancing the speaking skill of second language learners using modern technologies." Journal of Technology for ELT. 1.2 (April 2011): n. pag. Web. (Date of Access).
MLA (6th Edition)
Chanthiramathi, V. "Enhancing the speaking skill of second language learners using modern technologies." Journal of Technology for ELT 1.2 (April 2011): (Date of Access) <https://sites.google.com/site/journaloftechnologyforelt/archive/april2011/ enhancingtheskillofspeakingusingmoderntechnologiesforsecondlanguagelearners>

Technology Enhanced Learning 
            Media is a mediator of message from communicator to communicant or from the teacher to the student. Technology is the usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, systems or methods. The term can apply either generally or to specific areas. Examples include "construction technology", "medical technology", or "state-of-the-art technology". Technology-enhanced learning has become the mainstream of educational innovation. Based on these fundamentals teacher will be able to develop new and innovative approaches for the second language learners.

            Nevertheless, to be able to speak competently is not as an easy task. It is a ‘complex task’ (Hedge, 2000: 261). That makes developing speaking skills for students might also be a complex task as well. For that reason, teachers should be aware of this phenomenon. Very often, teachers are completely trapped within the situation that would allow one particular issues and rejected to consider other issues in developing students speaking skills. This, in the end, will make the designed speaking activities tends to be slightly imbalance.

            Since the development of the Communicative Language Teaching, it has become widely known that speaking is not merely producing correct pronunciations, accurate grammars and vocabularies, but also how to practice fluency, speaking without pauses and the ability to keep going without hesitation. The ‘mechanic learning’ of language shall immediately be reconsidered, since the inability and the insufficiency of this sort of approach in achieving a standard proficiency of speaking. Therefore, there are still lots of issues need to be considered regarding to develop speaking skills for learners and to produce a good and competent speaker. These debates are the main focus in this article.

            Speaking has its own characteristics. Speaking or conversation mostly takes place in ‘real time’ situation (Thornbury & Slade, 2006: 11), or in Bygate’s (2001: 16) term, it very often occurs ‘online’.

The roles of students in learning speaking
            There are some categories that can be used as the role of learners ind eveloping speaking skills in the classroom (Brown, 1994) -

  • Intensive - It goes one step beyond imitative to include any speaking performances that are designed to practice some phonological or grammatical aspects of language. 
  • Responsive - It consists of short replies to teacher-or student-initiated questions or comments. 
  • Transactional (dialogue) - Transactional language, carried out for the purposes of conveying or exchanging specific information, is an extended form of responsive language. 
  • Interpersonal (dialogue) - It carried out more the purpose of maintaining social relationships than for the transmission of a fact and information. These conversations are little trickier for learners because they can involve some or all of the following factors - a casual register, colloquial language, emotionally charged language, slang and sarcasm. 
  • Extensive (monolog) - Here the register is more formal and deliberative. It can be planned or impromptu. 

Digital Tools in Developing Speaking
            It is important to be aware of the digital world students live in as we design learning experiences to cultivate basic communication skills. The diverse variety of Web 2.0 tools allow students to create products, such as videos, podcasts, interactive posters, cartoons, and share them online with others to see.

            To build effective communication skills students must learn to 
  • Communicate using digital media and environments to support personal and group learning. 
  • Share information efficiently and effectively using appropriate digital media and environments. 
  • Communicate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively to different audiences using various media and formats. 

            Basic communication skills are at the core of every organization. It is crucial that we as teachers help students build this vital set of 21st century skills.
Internet Resources for Developing Skills 

VoiceThread (http://voicethread.com)
            It is free to use with registration for an account. With VoiceThread, group conversations are collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world. It can be done without any software to install. A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate pages and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies. 

Voxopop (http://www.voxopop.com)
            Create talk groups for voice-threaded discussions http://www.voxopop.com/newgroup . 

Examples from ESL541-Intermediate 
  • Who are you? http://www.voxopop.com/topic/d35a3328-bcc1-49c3-9e5f-ab87a4805652
  • Language and Accents: http://www.voxopop.com/topic/aff89359-63a6-4e1c-8915-2e897e5c89c4
            Voxopop talk groups are a fun, engaging and easy-to-use way to help students develop their speaking skills. They are like message boards, but we use voice rather than text and a have a specialised user interface. 

Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net/download/)
            [1.5Mb] click to download this free, cross-platform software to record, amplify, fade, edit, copy, paste etc; converts audio files to .mp3 format. 

Speaking Activities for Student Podcasts 
            Tools for podcasting involve: Audio Mp3 files accessed from html files, Podcasts distributed using “push” technology with RSS feeds (iTunes, MyYahoo.com, i Google.com), Avatars and virtual characters in making videos(www.voki.com, www.xtranormal.com ...etc.), Screencasts (www.jing.com), Powerpoint slides with audio enhancements (www.microsoft.com), Video Doodling (www.voicethread.com), Telephone podcasts (www.gcast.com), Servers providing learner generated podcasting (www.podomatic.com). 

            It is possible to take any speaking activity for ELT and present it as a podcast. The following is a suggested list of such activities: 
  • Reading aloud 
  • Students give their thoughts on topic assigned by teacher 
  • Students listen to classmates’ thoughts and respond 
  • Oral diary; oral weekly report 
  • Group presentations on a completed project 
  • Oral book report 
  • Picture description 
  • Story telling 
  • Chained story telling 
  • Creating riddles 
  • Role play 
  • Debates 
  • Dramatic monologues 
  • Radio drama 
  • Jazz chants 

Some Online Resources for ELT Podcasting 
Podcasting Basics 
Examples of radio stations that provide podcasts 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (BBC) 
http://www.rthk.org.hk/ (RTHK) 

        Thus digital tools can be used effectively in developing second language communication. The Internet has a wealth of resources to aid in the development of oral skills, both for teachers and learners. Learning conversational English is not easy, especially for those living in countries where English is not the first language. Students are always looking for a better tool to improve their language skills. Teaching English as a second language necessitates spending a substantial amount of time and resources trying to improve the quality of English spoken by the students. In countries like India, not having enough teachers whose mother tongue is English compounds the problem. Online technology is designed for easy learning, allowing students to interact with the tool as if they are playing an online game. If a student mispronounces a word, the learning tool can immediately spot it and help correct it. It is the responsibility of the teacher to motivate the students to use these tools and to develop the skill of speaking.