ELT methods believe that exposure to the language and practice of vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation will develop listening comprehension. Although pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar are three key factors to mastering a foreign language, in the field of English Language Teaching more consideration is on teaching grammar and vocabulary and pronunciation does not take more weight while it involves many different dimensions. In the traditional L2 language classroom, pronunciation and listening are often the most difficult and underdeveloped skills. As students embark on learning a new language the most common errors they make are at phonetic levels. It is due to transferring the features of consonants and vowels from their L1 to L2 and causes they learn words with their own phonetics and when listening to a tape or when talking with native speakers have problem and cannot recognize what has been said.
Besides all things mentioned, the one that can also influence listening comprehension is pronunciation. Pronunciation or the way a word or name is pronounced often affects the EFLs listening comprehension. In second or foreign language learning, listener often substitutes difficult sound of L2 by similar sounds from L1 or from other languages they have already spoken. For example, pronouncing initial and ﬁnal consonants, are some ways in which phonemes can create challenges for EFL students (Hussin, 2002). In order to apprehend what is meant thoroughly, one has to be aware of the nature of spoken language which is directly related to the phonological features of the language (Sevil Ak, 2012). As also suggested by Gilakjani and Ahmadi (2011), “It [pronounciation] is granted the least attention in many classrooms” (p. 74) and unlike the voice of the literature, is usually neglected. Therefore, pronunciation awareness of a foreign language deserves consideration.
This chapter presents the review of the literature relevant to the present study that investigates the effects of contrastive based pronunciation training on listening comprehension. First the place of listening in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT) will be given by focusing on the history, definitions, and importance of listening, difficulty of listening, how to develop it, material and designing listening activity and problems in L2 listening. In the second section, the place of pronunciation in ELT field will be reviewed. The history, definition and importance of pronunciation, components of pronunciation, how to teach, factors influencing it, pronunciation and CA, and finally, developing listening by contrastive based pronunciation teaching will be discussed.
2.1. History of Listening in English Language Teaching (ELT)
Among the first methods that gained popularity was the Grammar Translation Method. In this method, Latin was regarded as a model to follow- Latin was the language of Christianity; therefore, it was considered perfect and a model language. As its name suggests, the main characteristics of this method were based on grammar, translation, dependence on native language, and rote learning. The main goal of language learning in this method was to understand the literary works in order to develop intellectually. A lesson would typically have one or two new grammar rules, a list of vocabulary items and some practice examples to translate from L1 to L2 or vice versa. The approach was originally reformist in nature, attempting to make language learning easier through the use of example sentences instead of whole texts (Howatt, 1984: 136 cited in Richards and Rodgers (2001: 6). Below are some basic principle proposed by some linguists. Richards and Rodgers (2001) propose some principles:
1. The goal of foreign language study is to learn a language in order to read its literature or in order to benefit from the mental discipline and intellectual development that result from foreign language study. Grammar Translation is a way of studying a language that approaches the language first through detailed analysis of its grammar rules, followed by application of this knowledge to the task of translating sentences and texts into and out of the target language. It hence views language learning as consisting of little more than memorizing rules and facts in order to understand and manipulate the morphology and syntax of the foreign language. For Stern: “The first language is maintained as the reference system in the acquisition of the second language”.(1983: 455)
2. Reading and writing are the major focus; little or no systematic attention is paid to speaking or listening.
3. Vocabulary selection is based solely on the reading texts used, and words are taught through bilingual word list, dictionary study, and memorization. In a typical Grammar-Translation text, the grammar rules are presented and illustrated, a list of vocabulary items is presented with their translation equivalents, and translation exercises are prescribed.
4. The sentence is the basic unit of teaching and language practice. Much of the lesson is devoted to translating sentences into and out of the target language, and it is this focus on the sentence that is a distinctive feature of the method. Earlier approaches to foreign language study used grammar as an aid to the study of texts in a foreign language (traditional grammar). But this was thought to be too difficult for students in secondary schools, and the focus on the sentence was an attempt to make language learning easier.
5. Accuracy is emphasized. Students are expected to attain high standard in translation, because as Howatt said:
“The high priority attached to meticulous standards of accuracy which, as well as having an intrinsic moral value, was a prerequisite for increasing number of formal written examinations that grew up during century”. (Howatt, 1984:132, cited in Richards and Rodgers (2001: 6).
6. Grammar is taught deductively- that is, by presentation and study of grammar rules, which are then practiced through translation exercises. In most Grammar Translation texts, a syllabus was followed for the sequencing of grammar in an organized and systematic way.
7. The student’s native language is the medium of instruction. It is used to explain new items and to enable comparisons to be made between the foreign language and the student’s native language. (2001: 5-6).
In fact, Grammar Translation Method has dominated European and foreign language teaching from about 1840 to 1940, and in some modified forms, it continues to be widely used in many parts of the world today. It is still used in situations where understanding literary texts is primary focus of foreign language study and there is little need for speaking knowledge of the language. The issue worth mentioning here is whether today’s failures of teaching methods are due to the ever-lasting influence of archaic methods (like the grammar translation method) or to the inadequacies of new approaches which have more or less failed to improve teaching and learning. As the method became increasingly pedantic, a new pedagogical direction was needed. One of the main problems with Grammar-Translation was that it focused on the ability to ‘ analyze’ language, and not the ability to ‘use’ it. In addition, the emphasis on reading and writing did little to promote an ability to communicate orally in the target language. In the mid-nineteenth century, scholars (e.g., Francois Gouin (1831-1896), Claude Marcel (1793-1896), and Thomas Prendergast (1806-1886)) became uncomfortable with GTM and started to criticize the method (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).
Following these critiques, ELT world experienced a reform movement. The reformists (e.g., Paul Passy, Henry Sweet, and Wilhem Vietor) believed that explicit grammar instruction should be provided and translation should be avoided (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). This movement expressed its dissatisfaction with grammar translation and suggested that in learning a foreign language, speech should be given priority over writing and this had to be shown in the design of language teaching approaches and methods. The advocates considered the best way in language learning was as to emphasize the spoken language. Before any written input, hearing the language was primary. Therefore, listening emerged as an inevitable outcome of this movement. Natural development of first language acquisition was what reformists suggested as the best way of second or foreign language learning. This belief turned out to be called what is known as the Direct Method.
This method emphasized exposure to oral language, with listening and speaking as the primary skills. Meaning was related directly to the target language, without the step of translation, while explicit grammar teaching was also downplayed (Schmitt, 2002). Listening was one of the most important skills focused in this method since it provided “natural input” for orally conducted language teaching (Larsen-Freeman, 2000; Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Among the principles of the direct method:
1. Classroom instruction was conducted exclusively in the target language.
2. Only everyday vocabulary and sentences were taught.
3. Oral communication skills were built up in a carefully graded progression organized around question-and-answer exchanges between teachers and students in small, intensive classes.
4. Grammar was taught inductively.
5. New teaching points were introduced orally.
6. Concrete vocabulary was taught through demonstration, objects, and pictures; abstract vocabulary was taught by association of ideas.
7. Both speech and listening comprehension were taught.
8. Correct pronunciation and grammar were emphasized.
The Direct method had its own problems, however. It