Using Language To Communicate And Convey Messages English Language Essay

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We use language to communicate and convey messages to people, whether in a written form or speech. As a natural process of human growth, most children learn subconsciously to listen and speak. It is later, when they are consciously taught to read and write that they are asked to expend some effort. However, speaking in many ways tends to be undervalued skill. This may be because while we are growing up, many of us start to speak quite naturally and we subconsciously start speaking without being taught to. Thus, many educational institutes place more emphasis on reading and writing rather than listening and speaking (Bygate, 1987). Moreover, most of us spend a lot of our time talking. We spend hours talking to our friends and we even use speaking to think when we talk to ourselves. We do not think of the muscles we use to articulate the various types of sounds nor do we to worry about the risk of mispronunciation (Levelt, 1989).

As a matter of fact, speaking is one of the most complex skills to be learned especially for second language learners (SLLs) let alone foreign language learners (FLLs). For this study, it is crucially important to understand the meaning of the notion of speaking. Chambers English dictionary, as cited in Cornbleet and Carter (2001), defines speaking as to "utter words." However, Cornbleet and Carter (2001, p.18) argue that speaking does not mean simply uttering words or even adding a bit of grammar. They say that uttering words like 'core' or 'fish' alone cannot be considered to be speaking. Thus, they attempt to define speaking as "combining sounds in a recognized and semantic way, according to language specific principals, to form meaningful utterances"(2001, p.18). Speaking, in this definition, signifies the need for an oral medium and a message that is constructed by uttering phonologically, syntactically and semantically acceptable and meaningful sounds.

We acquire this skill in our first language after extensive exposure to, interaction with and observation of the language that last for a period of at least four years (Krashen, 1982; Steinberg and Sciarini, 1993). It is logical then to wonder how much time SLLs need to be able to speak in the target language. Speaking is a continuous developing process as we go on expanding our lexicon and rhetorical abilities.

This study addresses key issues in teaching speaking to the Omani foundation year students at a Higher College of Technology (HCT) in Oman. Oman is an Arabic country which is very proud of its heritage and traditions. However, recently, the country has adopted the policy of anglicising some of its educational institutes and work places. That is to say, the government has imposed English on the people and made competence in English one of the main skills that a person needs in order to have good job opportunities. To put the situation in a nutshell, in Oman you advance in your job and salary according to your competence in English. Given that English is prioritised in this way, many Omanis have different attitudes towards putting their English skills into practice. The hypotheses of this research are: the teaching speaking in EFL classes in HCTs in Oman is not given the appropriate attention, the teachers are not aware of the cultural barriers that may hinder the successful conduct of speaking classes, the materials adopted for use in teaching speaking are not suitable for Omani students and that there is no agreed policy on the importance and balance of fluency-focused and accuracy-focused activities in speaking lessons.

Most Omanis are not able to speak fluent English. Many are only able to communicate in English after two or three years of doing their bachelor degree in English. The Omani colleges in general accept both genders. However, the two genders cannot sit next to each other because of the Omani culture which prohibits females from interacting with males and vice versa. In comparison to other cultures, here are many topics which are considered as taboo in Oman, such as, sex, suicide, drugs, and political topics.

EFL teachers of different nationalities, including Omanis, must be aware of the peculiarity that Oman has which is distinct from many Arab countries. Oman is known to be one of the most conservative Arab countries in terms of its traditions and customs. Despite the advanced services that Oman provides to its people, modernity and traditional culture both co-exist in one place. For example, the people differ in their behaviour and ways of thinking according to the geographical background they are from. In Oman, there are five regions and four governorates. Each has its own different weather, environment and dialects. Besides Arabic, there are other languages spoken in certain regions and governorates, such as Jabali, Baluchi, Suwahili and Kemzari. However, none of these languages are taught in schools. The English language is the second language taught in schools from the elementary stage to the secondary stage. In Oman English is considered to be a foreign language which is used only in schools and educational institutes.

In Omani society, social interaction between males and females is allowed among relatives but between strangers it is perceived by the majority to be unacceptable. There are many rules and restrictions governing interactions between men and women. These rules become less stringent with the passage of time, and yet many people are still very religious or practice religious values. For instance, conversations about religion are prohibited in workplaces. When they are admitted to colleges the female students and the male students are in many cases grouped together in separate places. Not so long ago, some families prohibited their daughters from pursuing their bachelor degree studies in mixed colleges and universities because they were uncomfortable with the kind of encounters between males and females that might take place. This view has changed drastically in the last few decades but fear of the perceived dangers of co-education is still present. Girls are motivated to act shy since this characteristic is considered to be the norm for well-raised girls. Many females study just to help their future husbands if that is what their husbands want and many married women give up their jobs and simply become housewives and mothers.

This study investigates the importance which is given to speaking in Omani HCTs and how is it taught in college classrooms. It investigates the kind of methodologies and techniques for teaching speaking which are most suitable for Omani students. It highlights the problems of teaching speaking to Omani students whether these are linguistic, cultural or paralinguistic. It investigates the attitudes of Omani students of and their teachers towards speaking. There are three main areas of investigation:

the different methodologies available for teaching speaking, teachers' commonly used practices in teaching speaking and the attitudes of both students and teachers towards speaking.

The literature review first discusses the Omani students' and teachers' attitudes towards English speaking classes. Then it provides some discussion of the nature of speaking in relation to the Omani context. After that, a critical analysis of the theories related to acquiring competence in speaking and teaching speaking. In addition, it compares and contrasts between the methodologies which can be implemented in teaching speaking in the Omani context. Moreover, it provides EFL teachers with a framework for developing the students speaking interactions and some restrains that may be encountered in the Omani situation. Finally some appraisals of the balance of accuracy and fluency in relation to the task activities provided to the Omani students at HCT are offered.

Chapter Two: Literature Review

2.1 Attitudes Towards Speaking English In Oman

"So, if you really want to hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is a twin skin to linguistic identity - I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language I cannot take pride in myself" (Anzaldua, 1987, p.59) cited in McGroarty (1996, p.3). Anzaldua explains that language facilitates bonding in our society and it boosts our social identity, forming a strong link with our 'selfhood'. Teachers have reflected upon why some learners excel in a subject, while others with the same background and academic experiences struggle with it. When relating this phenomenon to speaking English language teaching, many different factors come into play. One of the main factors is the attitudes the learners might have towards the target language. Moreover, in some cases, language teachers have particular attitudes towards teaching a language and towards language learners. According to Gardner (1985), attitude is linked to an individual's morals and beliefs as it governs and directs the choices made by the individual when put into certain situations. Positive attitudes about language and language learning lead to faster acquisition if they are accompanied by good learning strategies but people tend to reject what does not originate from their culture. In order to investigate teaching speaking in Oman, teachers have to know if the students have positive or negative attitudes towards the English language. In the following chapter, the Omani students' attitudes are investigated and discussed, based on their response to the student questionnaire. Hudson (1996) pinpoints the nature of attitudes towards a language, highlighting the fact that people's attitudes about language may be attributed to three different mental processes: subjective inequality, strictly linguistic inequality and communicative inequality.

Subjective inequality is the one that concerns linguistic prejudices about other languages. This mental conceptualisation takes into account what people think about each others' speech. Furthermore, this conceptualisation is mostly acquired from the individuals' culture and personal belief. One person can judge and draw conclusions about another person's quality and abilities on the basis of the way that person's talks regardless of the content of what they say. The problem with this judgment is that in many cases it is wrong or invalid. The quality of a person's speech might be underestimated or overestimated because of his way of speaking. He might be portrayed as having fewer qualities or more qualities than he actually has.

For example, if two Omanis whose mother tongue is Arabic are heard speaking English in a public place by a third party who speaks Arabic or both languages, they might be judged to be either from rich upper-class families, or they are showing off their abilities. In fact these two people might be students who are trying to improve their English by practising it outside the class. Hudson (1996) attributes this trend of judging people from speech to the innate need for human to know more information about people from whatever source is available to hand, which, in this case, is the way people talk because people need to know if they can trust and deal with people with different ways of talking.

The fear of judgment, mockery and embarrassment can be a critical problem among Omani students which teachers should be aware of. If the students are afraid to be embarrassed then it is logical to expect reluctance or lack of participation in the English speaking classes. If teachers are alerted in advance about these factors, then they will be better prepared through certain activities and teaching methodologies to overcome such phobia. Moreover, they will have a positive attitude towards the students' reactions in speaking classes. This argument will be investigated through the student questionnaire and the teacher interviews. Furthermore, the HCT students' attitudes towards speaking English will be revealed and researched alongside the attitudes towards speaking activities which they find more educational and motivating.

2.2 Understanding the Importance and the Nature of Speaking

In order to teach speaking to EFL learners, especially Omanis, teachers should understand the importance of teaching speaking and the nature of speaking in general. They should bear in mind that speaking is not an easy skill to teach. Yet, they should aim to make the learners masters of the target language although it would be unrealistic to expect native-like production from a foreign language learner even at the advanced stages. To develop the speaking skills among EFL learners both teachers and students should have a better understanding of the nature of speaking which the native speakers have. Moreover, teachers can attempt to provide their students with the appropriate tasks for this matter so learners can acquire a close competence of those similar to what a native speaker have. For example; teachers should give tasks similar to the daily conversation a native speaker is likely to encounter such as information gap activities or role play activities. Not Clear!!

The spoken language of native speakers tends to be of "phrase-sized chunks", shorter than complete sentences and "loosely strung together" (Brown and Yule 1983, p.26-27). Bygate (1987, p.7) makes a distinction between two important aspects governing speaking which are called 'processing conditions' and 'reciprocity conditions'. The first one is concerned with the fact that daily speech happens under the pressure of time. This means that the speaker has to think quickly of what to say, how to say it and what and how it will be understood by the listener. The reciprocity conditions are connected to the interpersonal intelligence of the speaker.

Most of our daily speaking is reciprocated between two or more people. The closeness of the listener or the speaker greatly affects their way of speaking. In the ESL context, students have more pressure because they need to think of the right words which, in many cases, they lack, In fact, EFL students are put under more and more pressure since they should think of the grammar, the word choice and the message they want to convey all at once. Native speakers can immediately understand the reactions of the person whom he/she is speaking to, whether it is disagreement or incomprehension. As a consequence, the message can be adjusted and understanding can be improved (Bygate, 1987, p.12). For example, asking the speaker to repeat or showing confusion in their facial expression to the speaker would indicate that there is a need for a message adjustment. Conversely, EFL learners struggle to communicate the first message let alone modifying it once again. Speaking is not as simple process as it may at first appear, especially where English is a foreign language like in Oman. Part of the following chapter investigates the approaches to teaching speaking to Omani foundation year students at one of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCTs). In addition, it discusses the teachers' awareness of the different demands upon them in teaching speaking to their students. Teachers need to consider whether Omani students need to acquire native-like speaking skills or simply need to be understandable. What teachers should expect from the HCT students and what the HCT students themselves aim to achieve in their speaking are key factors to be investigated.

In speaking, the use of intonation, elision, word and sentences stress, abbreviations and word contractions plays a significant role in communicating the message. For example, a native speaker tends to stress the word(s) which are important in his/her message either by raising the pitch of the voice or by pronouncing them more clearly. While these features appear naturally with native speakers, they need to be explicitly taught to second language students in order for them to have good communication skills (Brown, 1977; Langford, 1994). Another area of that needs to be considered is the importance of teaching these discrete features in teaching speaking to Omani HCT students. The question of whether the discrete speaking sub-skills are given any specific focus in the speaking classes and the extent to which particular features of speaking should be focused on in class are highly relevant in the Omani context These questions will be answered in Chapter Three through analysis of the data collected in the survey.

Bygate (1987, p.13) suggested that a key feature of speaking is what he calls 'reciprocity conditions', which accommodate the kinds of knowledge the speaker and the listener share together. This shared knowledge reduces the amount of words required and the type of grammar used in spoken discourse. If the speaker says: "that radio channel, yesterday, was bad," then both the speaker and the listener know what radio channel it is and why it was bad (Levelt, 1989, p.115; Brown, 1977; Langford, 1994). This phenomenon, indicating that fewer grammatical markers are used in some types of spoken interaction, raises the issue of the balance between accuracy and fluency in teaching speaking. Teachers may be led to believe that there are very few people who speak accurate English with full grammatical structures all the time. The issue then is whether teachers should be satisfied with just teaching fluency and ignoring grammatical accuracy.

Another interpersonal feature which applies only to speaking is turn-taking. Brown and Yule (1983, p.27) classify turn-taking into two kinds: 'long speaking turns' and 'short speaking turns'. The first one tends to be more organised and well-prepared, as in interviews or speeches In the classroom 'long Speaking turns can be taught and practised in the form of presentations, debates, and storytelling. However, it is the 'short speaking turns' which are more common in daily spoken interaction in which the subject matters tend to change constantly. It is this type of interaction that Omani students are likely to encounter in their communications with non-Arabic speakers. According to Brown and Yule (1983) and Bygate (1987), turn-taking allows people to adjust to what the other person knows, to decide the level of formality of speech, to take notice of new mutual knowledge and choose topics of interest to the other person. Turn-taking can be practised in Omani classrooms among students of the same sex. However, since the classes at all Omani HCT colleges are mixed, activities which demands turn-taking between the sexes should be conducted carefully. Mixed classes in HCTs have to be handled sensitively and, if teachers want to teach spoken interaction skills, they need to understand the cultural background of the Omani society. In Chapter Three, the cultural appropriateness of different speaking activities is investigated to raise teachers' awareness of certain problems that may be encountered when teaching speaking in Oman.

The notion of communicative competence was first presented by Dell Hymes (1971).. Later, it was redefined and explained in more detail and by others. The original idea of Hymes was that, in order to communicate effectively, speakers of a language should have more than grammatical competence in the target language. Moreover, they need to be acquainted with how language is used by native speakers of that language to accomplish their purposes. In order to achieve that, the learners should observe, process and understand the norms of behaviour in the target language.

The purpose of teaching speaking is to enable the learner to communicate with both native and non-native speakers in English. Thus, it is important to teach the learners the norms of language behaviour of interlocutors from a range of different cultures. In other words, learners should be equally competent linguistically and communicatively, having "the knowledge of linguistic and related communicative conventions that speakers must have to create and sustain conversational cooperation" (Gumperz 1982, p.209). Differences in cultural backgrounds of speakers are manifested in their behaviour, which is usually reflected in speech acts. The contribution of Searle (1969) to speech acts analysis is of great interest in this connection because explicit criteria for the functions of speech acts are proposed. In a speech act, the relationship between grammatical form and communicative function is accounted for by saying that each utterance is associated with a certain illocutionary force indicating device or illocutionary act potential (Searle, 1969). However, speech acts are not comparable across cultures (Schmidt and Richards, 1983). Culture-specific speech acts necessitate a familiarity with a culture's value systems. Only then can the illocutionary force behind the speech act be understood. Learners of English must be made consciously aware of the differences in certain speech acts when used by a native speaker of English and by a second language learner of the language because the values and cultural norms underlying the English language as used by a non-native speaker uses are not necessarily the same as those of a native speaker.

We convey our behaviour and social status in our speaking. The word choice a speaker may make or the pitch of her/his voice is the evidence of such an argument. For example; Arabic speakers in general are judged to be more demanding and rude when they are heard speaking English by English native speakers because they do not use the word 'please' after or before a request. They do not use friendly, hedging auxiliaries such as 'would' and 'could'. However, the reason behind this is that the way Omanis interact with each other in their own society is different from how English native speakers interact together in their society.

Kachru (1996, p.97) clarifies that the English language is introduced to this new culture which has their own necessities for politeness, apology, persuasive strategies, and so on. It is impossible to get them to speak like the English natives. This argument leaves the teacher with the decision of exposing and teaching the learners to the way people use the same language to speak in different cultures ,for example ; providing an example of a British teacher who travels to Oman and give a compliment to his/her colleges or students . This teacher will surely misunderstand because in Oman people do not give compliment unless they know the other person. Or it will signify some derogatory connotations.

Chick's (1996) study presents imperative variation in the frequency and use of response strategies by different ethnic groups. The study was conducted in the University of Natal, Durban. It shows, for instance, that the Indian interlocutors tended to favour the principle "avoid self-praise" over the principle of "agree with the speaker". A similar study conducted by Olshtain and Weinbach (1993) analysed 330 Israeli and 330 American responses to compliments and concluded that Israelis found it more difficult to accept a compliment than Americans. The Americans easily accepted compliments, usually replying "Thank you". However, the Israelis tended to apologise or to be surprised. It is thus logical to conclude that the communicative competence of a person from one culture can be different from that of a speaker from a different culture, even though they speak both speak the same language. Learners of English should therefore have some cross-cultural understanding of the conventions of communicative competence to avoid misunderstanding and miscommunication.

2.3: Theories of Teaching Speaking

It is vitally important to mention two opposing views in second language teaching which are the non-interventionist and the interventionist. The first one approaches language learning as a natural cognitive process that emerges naturally among individuals by getting enough exposure to the target language (Krashen & Terrell 1983; Krashen 1982). It advocates that speaking happens when there is no pressure put upon learners. According to Krashen (1982) and Krashen & Terrell (1983), speaking appears naturally by setting up a friendly environment for learning and providing the learners with a lot of authentic exposure to the target language. In fact, they claim that this is a natural approach in which the students should never be forced to speak but rather are expected to start speaking by themselves after a period of time.

Applying this theory to a TEFL environment means that exposure to spoken language should be maximised and students should be encouraged but never asked directly to speak in the speaking classes. Krashen (1982) does not specify the exact amount of exposure that is required but simply emphasises that the authentic exposure, which he calls 'comprehensible input', should be interesting and relevant to the learners. He believes that, if teachers abide by these two conditions, the learners will be willing to express them and add their own experience to the input. Krashen (1982) takes into account the learners' emotions when he suggests reducing the 'affective filter' but what he does not realise is that learners have different styles in learning. There are extrovert learners who are willing to take risks and try talking even though they realise that they are going to make some mistakes. On the other hand, there are introverts who do not want to participate because they do not have high self confidence or maybe because it is just their way of operating in learning. (Dewaele & Furnham, 1999; MacIntyre & Gardner, 1994, p.283).

The second approach to teaching speaking tackles language from a behaviourist point of view as it considers language learning to be a combination of skills and sub-skills that can be taught, practised and mastered by putting a bit of pressure on the learner (Johnson, 1986; Pincas, 1997; Bygate, 1987, p.4). This second approach is more practical and measurable in classroom teaching. In fact, it is widely accepted and implemented in schools and colleges. Standardized tests like TOEFL and IELTS are based on the skills view of language and test the skills of listening speaking, reading and writing separately.

Johnson as cited in Pincas (1997), Bygate (1987, p.3) and Levelt (1989, p.72) believe that breaking up language into sub-skills and combining them in a stressful environment leads to mastery. Moreover, for a skill to be learned, a learner must have declarative knowledge (the knowledge about) which is transformed by practice into a procedural knowledge (the ability to use that knowledge). While there are many cases in which people were found to have been able to learn to speak a foreign language through pure exposure, the opposite is not quite true. Yet we choose the skill approach in the schools the most. This study investigates Omani learners' attitudes to the practice of each theory. Through their answers on the student/questionnaire, students will show what approach they really prefer and through the teacher/interview what the approach they need will be discussed and compared with the students' responses.

While recognising the influence that the two approaches outlined above have had on the teaching of spoken language over the years, it is believed by the author that the speaking skill is essentially cognitive, psychological and behavioural, although it has, in the past, been approached in many cases as a purely behavioural skill. It was believed to be just like learning how to drive a car or how to play football (Bygate, 1987; Long, 1982). In other words, learners could master any skill with good practice. Nevertheless, speaking is not a habit that can be taught simply by practising it. It requires cognitive processes such as recalling and thinking about the right words in the right context. It requires inference, requisitioning, reflection and explaining which deal with the speaker's cognitive abilities. When we speak, we do not convey only messages but rather we convey thought and feelings in fluent speech (Levelt, 1989). Moreover, we try to transform our intentions into our speech and to convey our psychological state as being, for example, happy or angry.

Speaking has many variables governing the way a person may choose to speak such as the level of education the receiver or the speaker may have, the closeness of the receiver to the speaker or the situation and the setting of speaking. It is not a hundred percent true to approach speaking as a skill or differentiates it from knowledge. We transfer knowledge through speaking and we even teach the knowledge about speaking by speaking. If we assume that speaking is purely a skill then we assume that drilling speaking activities are the best to generate second language learners who sound just like natives. If adding a bit of pressure is what makes learners master a skill then teachers would have to know how much exactly this pressure is? Is there a device that somehow measures this pressure in the classroom? Moreover, it is biased to think that learners are all the same since students differ in their endurance, ability and learning strategies (Keefe, 1979; Dickinson, 1990). Not all learners are willing to accept the teaching environments which the skill theory proposes. On the other hand, if speaking is purely knowledge, then the grammar translation method would be the best way to teach learners speaking. However, teachers realise that this method has never been invented or successful to teach speaking. The following chapter reveals the practised theory in an HCT in Oman and the students' reaction to learning through pressure versus fun. It presents ESOL teachers with a better understanding of the students' tolerance towards the practice of these theories.

2.4 Methodologies for developing spoken interaction skills among students

Oral language skills are defined by Mackey (1965, p.266) as "the use of the right sounds in the right patterns of rhythm and intonation, the choice of words and inflections in the right order to convey the right meaning". The oral skills approach became popular in parallel with the audio-lingual approach and the oral approach whereby students were doing oral drills for pronunciation, reciting poems or songs and doing controlled practice of the target language in class (Larsen-Freeman, 2000; Richards and Rodgers, 2001; Brooks 1964). Yet the oral skills approach could not succeed in helping learners transfer the skills used in controlled practice of speaking in class to unexpected real-life encounters (Wilkins, 1975). Wilkins (1975, p.76) explains that the interaction skills approach appeared in an attempt to help the learners transfer their knowledge about the language from their classroom practice to their real life communication because using oral skills alone could not help learners to transfer from the speaking activities they had done in class. Wilkins says that, without teaching the interaction skills, the learner "will not be able to transfer his knowledge from a language-learning situation to a language-using situation" (1975, p.76).

In order to help the learners to master the use of the target language and have good interaction skills, teachers should place their learners in difficult circumstances and apply some pressure, whereby the learners are forced to process the spoken discourse and respond to it with good coherent language. By doing so, the learners will be good communicators as they will be able to say what they want clearly with no misunderstanding (Bygate 1987). Bygate (1987, p.22) presents a systematic way for teachers to guide their learners to develop interaction skills and become skilled in speaking in difficult circumstances. Bygate suggests two kinds of activities: 'routine skills' and 'negotiation skills'. The first step is presenting learners with routine activities. These routine activities are activities that have some fixed, systematic way of saying/doing them and give learners enough time to organise and systematise their speech. In addition, they help learners to gain the confidence to speak without having the fear of committing mistakes or getting embarrassed (Widdowson 1983). Routine activities include story-telling, presentations, joke-telling and prepared public speeches. Those activities; furthermore, help learners to practise speaking in long turns (Ur, 1991).

Brown and Yule (1983, p.2) and Bygate (1987, p.23) classify routines into two kinds: 'information' (transactional) and -+'interaction' (interactional) routines. The information routines use transactional language in which the main objective is delivering facts correctly to the recipient. Examples of this would be getting learners to practise giving directions, describing a place or comparing and contrasting two situations. Unlike the first kind of routine, which helps learners focus solely on the delivery of information, the interaction routine addresses features of the social context by having learners engage in a simulation activity or a role play where they practise real life daily encounters (Bygate 1987). Examples of this kind of routine are handling a telephone call, reserving a hotel, and participating in daily service encounters. Scollon and Scollon (1983, p.48) explain that in these situational conversations there are fixed and expected phrases that the learner will be familiar with which will help the learner to perform with confidence.

After presenting the learner with the routine skills, a second step is required which is the presentation and practice of negotiation skills (Bygate 1987, p.27). There are two variables that need to be dealt with simultaneously while practising negotiation skills: the learner needs to know how to manage the interaction and to know how to negotiate meaning (Bygate 1987, p.27). The management of interaction is related to the idea of reciprocity conditions mentioned earlier, and is concerned with the 'paralinguistic' features of conversation, such as facial expressions, gestures and the relationships between the interlocutors. These allow one speaker to convey to the other that the speaking turn should change or indicate whether they should carry on in their present form of turn taking or change the topic (Bygate 1978, p.27; Brown and Yule 2003; Warren, 2006, p.97).

The negotiation of meaning is a term derived from Interaction Hypothesis (Long, 1982). Information-Gap activities, for example, are a very practical to generate interaction and negotiation of meaning between learners. Long's Interaction Hypothesis suggests that language acquisition happens when the learner is engaged in conversations in which interaction with other learners is crucial through negotiating comprehensible input. One key characteristic in Long's theory is 'negotiation of meaning' (Long, 1982). This theory suggests that, while learners are interacting, they will receive comprehensible input, which may be in the form of questions or enquiries, and, therefore, the learner will need to understand such input by asking for clarification or confirmation (Wajnryb, 1992, p.54; Grice, 1975; Bygate 1987, p. 31). This prompts the second language learners to discuss meaning which will assure language acquisition, as well as developing and enhancing interaction skills (Long, 1982; Paribakht, 1985).

Ur (1991, p. 120-131) provides teachers with three other classifications of activities and follow each with the rationale of it. The first category is the 'Brain storming activities' that can help learners to develop their interaction skills. The two examples Ur provides are; guessing games as they are fun and they stimulate learners to speak and do mistakes, finding connections between two subjects as they provoke the brain to think and activate the schemata and thus take the learners' attention from the form to message deliverance.

The other Two categories of speaking activities are called: 'organising activities' and 'compound activities'. Examples of organising activities are: putting in order and combining texts. These activities help learners with their management of interactions as they will take turns, agree or disagree with each other and use various interaction routines appropriate to these situations. For example, conversational gambits such as: "Excuse me, I don't think this is right" or "I disagree" are used widely in interaction routines involving disagreement. Compound activities help learners increase their accuracy in speaking as they give them more time to organise and systemise their speech. Such activities include debates in which learners pre-prepare their propositions, composing drafts where they think about and edit their grammar and giving an oral presentation where they have already rehearsed their arguments about the topic.

Chapter Three: Methodology

3.1 Introduction

As mentioned in the introduction, this study investigates some key issues relating to the teaching of speaking in the Omani context and the teaching methodologies that are typically used in Omani classrooms. Additionally, it aims to investigate the problems teachers face in teaching speaking to Omani students and the problems Omani students encounter in developing their English speaking skills.

This research encompasses both a qualitative approach (naturalistic inquiry) and a quantitative approach (positivist observation) which are usually contrasted and used to reinforce each other in research the field of social sciences. Nichols (1991) as cited in (Verma and Mallick, 1998) claims that there are no strict rules for the selection of a research method and this is particularly so in the soft sciences. Mouly (1978) cited in (Cohen et al., 2000) adds that each method has its strengths and weaknesses and points out that there is no consensus on what may be called 'the perfect method'. In view of this and in an attempt to increase the validity of the eventual findings, it was decided to incorporate both quantitative and qualitative methods in the survey methodology.

A Multifactor Structured Questionnaire was designed to measure students' views and attitudes towards the speaking activities in which they were asked to engage. The questions were designed in such a way as to elicit fairly concrete opinions, from which attitudes could be inferred and compared. A semi-structured interview protocol was devised and used as the basis for conducting face-to-face interviews with selected teachers and with the programme co-ordinator. The output from the recorded interviews was transcribed verbatim and the opinions expressed by the teachers were then compared with opinions gathered through the student questionnaire. A third ethnographic research method was used to triangulate the results of the student questionnaire and the teacher interviews. Live classroom observations were conducted to observe, record and evaluate both teachers' and the students' behaviours in speaking classes. It was felt that this three-facetted approach to the data gathering would yield the most reliable results given the constraints of time imposed on the investigation and the relatively small population sample used.

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