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Syllabus design is an integral part of English language teaching and as teachers seek develop language proficiency in second language learners they are expected to create structures of learning which will enable the achievement of this endeavor. As such, this essay provides a justification for a syllabus designed to be used in teaching speaking and pronunciation to Libyan secondary students with Arabic as their first language. Ideally, the syllabus targets to resolve speaking and pronunciation problems experienced by English language learners of Arabic descent. More often than not, Libyan and Arabic speaking students are only exposed to learning English through formal instructions as explained by Rabab'ah (2003:181). Following this, they are unable to fully nurture their speaking and pronunciation skills which are best acquired through interactive and communicative learning. As a result of the differences which are present between English and Arabic pronunciation, most of these learners experiences problems related to stress and intonation. However, the greatest difficult present amongst Arabic learners of English is their incapacity to communicate fluently and proficiently in English. It thus becomes quite crucial to address these problems by formulating an effective syllabus.
The speaking and pronunciation syllabus is therefore aimed at developing English language proficiency and especially with focus at developing adept fluency which as asserted by Chambers (1997:536), is the main indicator of communicative proficiency. This aim will at the end facilitate communicative and pragmatic competencies which will allow learners to utilize the English language appropriately in their day to day interactions. The learners targeted by this syllabus have shown great enthusiasm for the learning of English speaking and pronunciation. Their motivation is fuelled by the need to interact and communicate with English speaking tourists who normally frequent Libya. The learners who are aged between 16 to 17 years possess limited capacities in speaking and pronunciation skills as indicated by a diagnostics tests carried out prior to the designing of the syllabus. At the pre-intermediate level, this syllabus is ideal for them.
Organization and Description of the Syllabus
The syllabus which focuses on developing speaking and pronunciation skills is comprised of a total of twelve sessions with each session amounting to one hour. As such, learners will have a total of twelve hours of contact. There will be 16 Libyan learners attending the sessions at a language center located in Tripoli. The syllabus is organized in such a way as to reflect the topic, speaking and pronunciation focus and the speaking activities for every session. In the first unit of the syllabus the main focus is on speaking where learners will learn how to make enquiries and also give information. In doing so, they will also incorporate this in learning the pronunciation of long vowel sounds. The second unit follows the same guidelines but the speaking focus is directed towards talking about others in a conversation while at the same time familiarizing oneself with the pronunciation of the schwa sound.
While the speaking focus for most sessions revolves around making enquiries, giving information, making comments and formulating descriptions, pronunciation's focus is at comprehending the use of vowels and consonants. Unit 6 utilizes descriptive tasks in learning the use of consonants /s/z/iz. Other elements of pronunciation are also addressed with Unit 3 teaching learners how to links words and sounds in sentences. Unit 4 targets to teach contracted speech forms. Other phonological components such as intonation, falling and raising intonation are tackled in Unit 7. Word stress which is an important aspect of pronunciation is taught in Unit 8. Units 11 and 12 accommodate assimilation and the pronunciation of the [-ed] form respectively. The syllabus ideally reflects its objectives by providing speaking activities for each session which are meant to provide learners with an interactive environment for harnessing their speaking skills. Evident in the syllabus is the use of interactive activities throughout all sessions. These activities include pair work, role play, discussions, group work, questionnaires and games. These activities fit the aim of the syllabus as they will give learners ample practice on their English communication, speaking and pronunciation skills.
The sample lesson plan for Unit 4 clearly indicates learning procedures for this learner centered syllabus. Since the main focus is to instill speaking skills to learners, the teacher is expected to utilize teaching methodologies which largely focus on the learner's learning needs. Indeed, functional aim of the lesson is to enable learners to seek and give information using telephone devices while the phonological objectives include learning how to utilize contracted speech appropriately. As indicated by Nunan (1998:26), such a learner centered syllabus can be implemented effectively by incorporating ample communicative and interactive tasks. This is observed in the lesson plan as learners are constantly asked questions by the teacher; they are also involved in interactive group work where they practice conversational skills. The lesson plan is also realistic and made more effective by the teacher's use role play tasks and the use of familiar content such as the booking of hotels often done by tourists with whom these learners would want to interact with. In general, learners will have acquired adequate speaking skills which they can utilize in their daily interactions with other English speakers. Speaking also accommodates the formation of relationships with others and the Libyan learners will do so during their highly interactive speaking and pronunciation lesson.
Follow up is an important aspect of teaching and learning. From the lesson plans guided by the syllabus, learners' understanding of the content is evaluated by the teacher during the various lessons. For instance in Unit 4, learners are expected to carry out group role play tasks as they examine their capacity to ask and give information. The teacher's role in this activity as in all other lesson activities is to interact with the learners and point out areas which need rectifying. Oral skills are likely to manifest with the use of such interactive and engaging follow up activities as indicated in the syllabus.
Theoretical Justification of the Syllabus
It is quite fundamental in the designing of such a syllabus to form a theoretical basis for its content. This factor provides purpose for the syllabus and also provides a link between its design and practice. This syllabus mainly targets the Libyan students' capabilities to communicate effectively with other English speaking individuals. As such, the syllabus must focus on improving fluency, appropriateness and intelligibility in their use of the language. Contrary to previous objectives of learning speaking and pronunciation which was to gain native like accent, current aims of learning pronunciation focuses on gaining intelligibility as observed by Tarone (2005). It is thus vital to consider the principles of the communicative approach of language learning utilized as a basis for the syllabus. In this approach, the focus is mainly on communication and the content being taught depends on the learner's needs. Since the Arabic speaking Libyan learners seek to become better communicators, the syllabus has accommodated numerous speaking and interactive tasks and opportunities.
Libyan learners are observed to have difficulties in pronouncing [-ed] forms and also the plural forms /s/z/iz. Following this analysis, it is crucial for the syllabus to incorporate communicative opportunities for them to practice the pronunciation of these sounds. Indeed as Brinton, Goodwin and Celce-Murcia (1996:8) assert that such methodologies like listening and imitating and phonetic training are quite effective in teaching pronunciation. These techniques are reflected in the syllabus as learners are encouraged to adapt the teacher's competent pronunciation by imitating and then practicing pronunciations during the lesson activities. In addition, Libyan learners will benefit amply from the interactional language they will learn whose emphasis as described by Richards (1990) is to allow the creation of positive interactions between individuals and this is reflected in the syllabus as it focus on topics aimed at allowing learners to make small talk, enquiries, give compliments and make new encounters.
The above communicative approach which has been used in the syllabus incorporates tasks which will enable learners to integrate both fluency and accuracy in their speaking. Indeed as postulated by Ellis (2003), the use of such tasks like descriptions and narratives which are dominant in the syllabus not only allows learners to practice language use but also amounts to complex and accurate use of the language. Speaking accuracy is also said to emerge from the use of oral communication tasks as described by Lynch (2007:317) who argues that when learners cooperate in identifying their speaking errors and rectifying them they are able to gain confidence in the target language and even strive to speak the language appropriately. This factor implies that as Libyan learners who experience difficulties in using contracted speech will find it helpful to engaged in tasks which encourage both the learners and the teacher to correct their errors and also guide them towards avoiding the unnecessary use of long words and sentences.
The Syllabus and Pragmatic Competence
The target of the syllabus is not only to develop communicative competence in learners but also pragmatic competence. Pragmatic competence deals mainly on the utterance level of language and with factors which allow native speakers to utilize the target language in social interactions uninhibited. According to Rueda (2006: 170) there are many aspects of pragmatic competence which can be facilitated during classroom instruction which means that the syllabus needs to actively incorporate such exclusive instructions. For learners to gain this form of competence, they must possess the ability use the target language for different purposes. Also, learners must acquire the ability to comprehend a speaker's intentions and have a command of the language rules utilized in creating forms of discourse. Explicit instruction in the teaching of English to the Arabic speaking students is quite necessary. Such instruction is expected to expose learners to the accurate English language input as observed in the syllabus where learners are provided with relevant speaking and pronunciation contents. Also as seen in the syllabus, it is crucial to create opportunities for the practice of the pragmatic knowledge that learners have acquired during the learning process.
Arabic speaking learners often experience problems in understanding intended meanings in discourse mainly because they are unable to grasp the use and meanings of intonation and word stress. According to Smith and Swan (2001:198) the unpredictable nature of English word stress eludes most Arabic speakers and teachers need to equip them with skills for detecting changes in meanings brought about by English word stress. As this is crucial to gaining pragmatic competence, the syllabus has incorporated these aspects as learners engage in learning tasks which enable them to distinguish between falling and raising intonation and the respective implied meanings. Chapman (2007:10) points out that the teaching of intonation in an interactive environment will allow learners to understand how native speakers of English interpret them.
While attempting to teach the Libyan students English and encourage pragmatic competence, it is important to consider the role of top- down and bottom-up abilities. In order to achieve the acquisition of these skills, teaching strategies need to consider the differences which exist between languages and ensure that learners utilize these differences in learning the target language and that their native language competence does not hinder their target language learning. For instance as illustrated by Chang, El-Ashry, Leclere and Palmer (2007:8) negative transfers can occur in the learning of English vowels by Arabic speakers due to the existing difference in the orthography of both languages. While vowels are found in the English alphabet and each of them representing multiple phonemes, Arabic speakers express their long vowels using letters which represent single phonemes. This contrast needs to be distinctly addressed in the teaching of English long vowels to Arabic learners.
McCarthy and O'Keeffe (2004:26) ascertain that the use of spoken corpora has become quite important in the teaching of speaking. Corpus in the teaching of Arabic speakers provides a native exemplification of the use of the target language and effectively assists learners in checking their competence. The use of transcriptions and recordings in the target language is demonstrated in the syllabus and lesson plan and promises to enhance fluency and pronunciation. In teaching pragmatic competence in Arabic learners of English, there are various underlying assumptions which include the fact that the act of speaking is equivalent to performing speech acts, that there are particular speech acts used by all languages and that there are differences in how speakers of different languages do things and in when they do them. The detailed syllabus has accommodated a vast range of speech acts as learners are taught how to carry out various conversational tasks. Also, the use of communicative activities like group work and role play provides an effective way of imparting pragmatic competence.
From the above discussion, it is evident that syllabus design is a complex and involving task. The analyzed syllabus will effectively transform the speaking and pronunciation capabilities of the targeted Libyan students. Greatly motivated to gain communicative competence in English, the learners will benefit from a communicative teaching approach which is also learner centered. In addition, this approach makes it easy to acquire pragmatic competence as well. The syllabus has incorporated various areas in speaking and pronunciation which are considered to be problematic amongst Arabic speaking second language learners. As such, the studies of contracted speech, intonation, word stress, [-ed] form application, long vowels and plural forms of /s/z/iz/ have been incorporated. Other aspects of significance which have been addressed include the use of spoken corpora and the top-down, bottom-up abilities in learners. In essence, this syllabus has the capacity to influence the achievement of the learning objectives desired by the Libyan students.