Çekiç‟s investigating computer assisted pronunciation teaching while the present study examining contrastive pronunciation training by a teacher, the findings of the two studies were parallel in both suggesting the effectiveness of pronunciation teaching on developing listening comprehension.
In light of the findings of the study, it can be concluded that this study confirms the previous literature on listening and pronunciation. In order to develop listening skills, it is important to adapt listening strategies, additionally, utilizing technology and opportunities for authentic input are strongly recommended. Integrating different language skills are encouraged in order to promote unity and meaningful instruction. Particularly, making learners familiar with the pronunciation of the target language by showing how real speech in an authentic environment occurs is what the literature suggests. This study draws closer to prove this suggestion by indicating that although regular classes aid the development of listening skills, pronunciation awareness training helps more.
5.2. Pedagogical Implications
In the light of the above mentioned findings, the following recommendations in terms of EFL teaching are given to teachers and practitioners in the so called field:
1. The positive result of this study implies that using contrastive based pronunciation teaching in an EFL classroom does improve the listening ability of language learners. Therefore, improving the learner’s listening comprehension ability should be considered in designing courses and also in the techniques used by EFL teachers since critical thinking techniques are teachable and learnable.
2. The teachers working in this field should specify more time and effort in teaching listening skills to their learners. EFL teachers would also need to change their attitude to teaching English in general and pronunciation in particular and change the perspective from focusing on making their learners produce correct grammatical and vocabulary forms to incorporating pronunciation skills in their teaching procedures since enhancing the learner‘s listening comprehension can have a great impact on their not only language learning but also their whole academic success. Teaching pronunciation in particular should be regarded as a way of helping the students analyze the problems the face, and showing their point of view. Pronunciation classes should not be passive ones .Instead students should always be asked to be active and comment on the process.
3. In all different learning situations specially in EFL learning, effort should be made to create a positive and stress-free atmosphere in which learners can easily express themselves and talk to their teacher and peers.
4. Pronunciation component of English language teaching can be accommodated in classes with more attention given to pronunciation, especially by integrating it with the listening skills since both skills contribute to each other. Also, suggested approaches in teaching pronunciation, such as minimal pair distinction activities or presenting features in context, can be followed to help students be successful in practicing this skills.
According to the findings of the study, at the end of the 4-week period, the experimental group significantly developed in listening comprehension. However, the development of the experimental group was significantly higher than the development of the control group. On the other hand, the significantly higher development of the experimental group can be ascribed to the contrastive based pronunciation training they received throughout 4-week period.
Recent trend in the literature on listening favors top-down processing and strategies over bottom up (e.g., Field, 2004). Nevertheless, since pronunciation awareness training is a type of bottom-up processing, the findings of this study (which is parallel to the previous literature, e.g., Brown, 2006; Coskun, 2011) imply that bottom-up processing cannot be disregarded. Use of bottom-up strategies should be encouraged in classes, wherefore; teachers can focus on the small units of listening to reach the whole end.
Because pronunciation has not received the attention it deserves, Kelly (1969) considers it as the Cinderella component of English language teaching (term first introduced by Kelly). This neglect may be because the teachers at language schools do not think pronunciation is important, or they do not feel competent enough to teach this skill. However, as this study has indicated, pronunciation plays an important role in the ELT world, particularly in developing listening skills. Therefore, another implication of this study may relate to the teacher training programs. Prospective language teachers might be trained in current approaches regarding listening and pronunciation, and if needed further pronunciation training can be applied. Some teachers might prefer a different teacher such as a visiting teacher to do pronunciation training, which might be also included in the professional development programs.
To conclude, all stakeholders, the administrators, curriculum designers, material developers, and teachers can draw on the findings of the present study to shape curricula, create syllabi, develop materials, and conduct classes accordingly.
5.3. Limitations of the study
There are a number of limitations to the present study suggesting that the findings should be interpreted with caution. To begin with, the study had to be conducted in a limited time period, so the training lasted only four weeks. Although some development has been observed, a 4-week period is not enough for a language skill to develop, especially for listening, which is one of the most difficult skills. Second limitation was that the present study was conducted only with Upper Intermediate level students; it may not be possible to generalize the findings since the results might change with different proficiency levels. Another limitation refers to female participants of the study. This study was conducted only with female participants, therefore, generalizing the findings result might change with sexuality. And the last limitation refers to sample size (40 students). To reach more generalizable finding a larger sample size should be assigned.
5.4. Suggestions for Further Research
Though some positive findings were identified in this study about contrastive based pronunciation teaching on listening comprehension of Iranian EFL learners, more research is recommended to further investigate this area. As discussed above in the limitations of the study, a 4-week period is not enough for a language skill to develop. Therefore, for future research studies, the period can be extended and the training can be applied for a longer time period. In addition, the present study was conducted with only Upper Intermediate Level participants, for further studies a wider scope of samples can be employed and different proficiency levels might be examined. Similarly, the sample size can also be expanded, there were 40 participants in the present study, in order to reach more generalizable findings a larger sample size can be assigned. This research study investigated the contrastive based pronunciation teaching as a whole, by teaching some of the most frequent errors for Iranian EFL learners, but for future research, the segments (the constituents of the segments of pronunciation) and suprasegmental features in combination can be investigated further in different research designs; such as having three experimental groups: one group segmental features, another group studying suprasegmental features, and the last group studying both segmental and suprasegmental features to see which one of them aids listening comprehension more. In a similar vein, how to teach pronunciation can also be examined and the different methods of teaching can be compared.
The result of this study revealed that contrastive based pronunciation teaching is effective in developing listening comprehension skills of Upper Intermediate level (EFL) students. Though experimental group have made progress in their listening skills at the end of the research period, the experimental group development is statistically much higher than the control group which indicates the aforementioned finding: the effect of contrastive based pronunciation training on listening comprehension skills. This finding is in accordance with the literature which highlights the relationship between pronunciation and listening. Although this relationship has been proposed by several scholars (e.g., Brown, 1977; Gilbert, 1995; Morley, 1991; Nunan & Miller, 1995; Rixon, 1986), the research studies (e.g., Brown & Hilferty, 1986) focused only on segmental features of pronunciation. There was only one empirical study which tried to prove such relation as a whole (Çekiç, 2007).In that study, Çekiç investigated the effects of pronunciation on listening comprehension via computer assisted teaching, while the present study investigated the effects of pronunciation with regular training given by a teacher. Although there were limitations to the study, this research might provide practitioners with a new approach in English language teaching. The neglect of pronunciation in classes and the pursuit of ways to develop listening skills are well known facts in this field, especially in Iran. Therefore, this study may call and if catch the attention of practitioners, it can assist language learners to overcome the problems they face regarding this particular skill while learning the target language.
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