English has become a vital and mandatory communication language in Vietnam since the opening of its doors to the world in 1986. Many English-speaking foreigners from across Asia, Australia, America and Europe started coming to invest in Vietnam. This has motivated the people of Vietnam to learn English to facilitate efficient and effective communication among their counterparts. The importance of English was immediately acknowledged by the Vietnamese government and as a result the English language programs were made compulsory beginning with the secondary schools and subsequently the high schools and finally university.
The teaching of English in secondary and high schools strongly focus mainly on grammar, sentence structures and vocabulary. In such a teaching format, conversational English was not taken into consideration. In addition, English learning and teaching is purely examination-based. Examinations were mainly grammar-focused. As a result, the teachers and academicians teach only the bare necessity which is required to pass the examination and is not linked to the learning needs of individual students. This has caused students to become de-motivated because English is just another subject at school, not part of their life. Many students eventually fail to see the importance and pride in being able to speak fluent English.
At university level, students who are motivated to develop their competencies in English can pursue a Bachelorââ‚¬â„¢s degree in English Language Teaching or a Bachelor of English degree. After graduation, they can work as teachers of English within the Vietnamese education system or as an English translator/interpreter depending on their capacity and proficiency. Students in these programs normally study for four years, course subjects among others include lessons about language structures, linguistics and teaching methodology. While this may sound theoretically sufficient, the learning and teaching of English in Vietnam today is purely limited to teacher-focused classrooms or in other words teaching methods that do not create opportunities for learners to satisfy their communicative needs. The English syllabus in Vietnam is very Grammar-focused. Therefore, it is very difficult for Vietnamese learners to communicate fluently and effectively in English since it is rarely spoken in Vietnam with the exception of some special places and events such as offices of multinational corporations and English language clubs. In fact you will hardly see Vietnamese speak English unless absolutely necessary. This is a far cry from neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines where English is spoken even during casual conversations with friends and family.
In recent years, the teaching methodologies of English has been through an enormous amount of changes and improvements especially in the areas of how the communicative approach is being widely applied and integrated into the English learning language classrooms. In classrooms of today, we see more and more learner response taking place. As a result, the English curriculum has also been revamped to generate youths which are able to communicate holistically in English and not merely in grammar theories.
The result of poor learning and ineffective teaching methodologies of English in Vietnamese classrooms today (due to the lack of genuine communication experience and examination ââ‚¬" centric lessons) are generating many students that achieve relatively good grades in their exams but on the other hand unable to communicate effectively in the real world.
According to Cunningham Una (2009) Vietnamese-accented speech in English has been informally observed to be notably unintelligible for native English-speaking listeners and even for Vietnamese listeners. There are extremely limited opportunities for proper hearing and speaking of English in Vietnam. It is undeniable that the pronunciation of English presents severe challenges to Vietnamese learners but they were not trained on how to pronounce English phonetics accurately and nobody corrected their mispronunciations in the early years of learning English. In addition, students mainly learn English pronunciation from Vietnamese English teachers who sometimes encounter difficulties themselves. Students are likely to imitate their teachersââ‚¬â„¢ pronunciation. This is somehow a kin to the Blind man leading another Blind man across the street.
The concern here is that we are unsure if Vietnamese students can recognize common pronunciation errors which they make on a regular basis.
The purpose of the study
This paper explores to what extent Vietnamese learners recognize common pronunciation errors in their spoken English and the reasons why they do not or are unable to correct their own mistakes. Suggestions will be made on how to improve the methods of teaching and correcting English pronunciation flaws in the Vietnamese context.
The significance of the study
This study will paint honest picture of the difficulties in learning and improving the English pronunciation of Vietnamese students. The students will have opportunity to self-assess their own English speech and recognize their mispronunciation with support from a native English-speaker. In the event a native speaker is unavailable, an equally competent and qualified speaker of English will be invited to observe and act as a point of reference.
The scope of the study
The primary focus of this study is to present an overview on the major difference between English and Vietnamese phonology and the capacity of a Vietnamese speaker to recognize common English pronunciation errors in his/her own speech. The students for this study will consist of English Language undergraduate students from the Foreign Languages Faculty at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City. The correlation between theory and practice in the learning of English pronunciation will also be studied. The study will contribute some suggestions that will further enhance the accuracy in pronouncing the English phonetics.
The experiment will be conducted using qualitative methods. The speech of three students during a speaking test at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City will be recorded and analyzed. All three students will get to listen to their own speech again respectively to see if they are able identify their pronunciation errors. A native/competent English speaker will also get listen to the studentsââ‚¬â„¢ speech to identify their mistakes in pronunciation.