, the participants in the experimental one received special treatment. They were trained by contrastive teaching most frequent errors for Iranian EFL learners. The treatment lasted for 30 minutes class hours; one class hour – 90 minutes – a week for four weeks. By the end of the forth week, a post-test of listening was conducted and the results were analyzed through Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). To do the results quantitative data have been analyzed through descriptive statistical methods (mean and standard deviation), and the researcher ran inferential statistics (t-test) and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). The results showed significant difference between the control and experimental group. It was, therefore, concluded that using contrastive-based pronunciation teaching can improve the listening comprehension ability of EFL learners.
This study gives the curriculum designers, administrators, teachers and material developers the opportunity to draw on the findings to shape curricula, create syllabi, develop materials, and conduct classes accordingly.
KEY WORDS: CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS, PRONUNCIATION, LISTENING COMPREHENSION, EFL
Listening is one of the most problematic skills for foreign language learners (FLL) since it does not develop easily and plays an important role in communication as it is said that, of the total time spent on communication, it takes up 40-50% (Mendelsohn, 1994). In the early period of ELT this skill was not regarded as an important skill in communication but gradually, during the years of developing ELT field, listening comprehension (LC) has received the emphasis it always deserved. Second language educators now acknowledge it as a crucial in FLL and encourage language teachers to devote more class time to listening activities. So the importance of listening comprehension in language learning and language teaching has moved from the status of incidental and peripheral importance to a status of significance and central importance (Celce-Murcia, 1991).
To develop this skill many different methods have been applied and various activities have been employed in classrooms. Many courses now offer ways and many books and conferences claim to teach teachers how to improve their students’ performance in listening comprehension. Furthermore, many teaching techniques in this regard have been introduced. For example, Rost (1991) has suggested more than 30 activities with many variations. In addition to strategies, teachers and researchers try to use different techniques such as using visual aids and particular computer program. The use of these techniques depends highly on student’s learning capacity and also availability of suitable materials. With the help of technology, opportunities for classroom instruction arise and teachers try to take advantage of these opportunities.
Nevertheless, listening has remained one of the most difficult skills due to certain reasons. For instance, the materials use in class lack the strength to cover how the real listening process occurs (Brown & Yule, 1983; Rosa, 2002). Because the materials include reduced speech and usually modified according to the level of the FLLs. This causes they have problem in real life communication and have problem in comprehending ‘ real speech’. Chastain (1988) asserts that the ability to comprehend the spoken second language plays an essential role in second language learning and use.
One of the techniques for improving listening comprehension is pronunciation awareness and finding the nature of it on the learner’s language. 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 and the absence of elements in their own language that causes the misunderstanding of spoken language and results in comprehension decline. Therefore, for FLLs contrastive based pronunciation teaching deserves consideration. With respect to this assumption, this study attempts to find if contrastive-based pronunciation teaching has any effect on developing listening comprehension.
1.1. Theoretical Framework
Before linguistics became a scientific study of language, language was studied subjectively. This subjectivity lied in the fact that language investigators, by the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, had been prescriptive in their ideas- to say how a language or a teaching method should be or should be taught, how we ought to speak and how we ought not to speak- rather than to be descriptive- to describe what really existed, and focuses on describing how native speakers actually do speak. Perspective approach codifies certain distinctions between standard and non-standard varieties, and often makes covert value judgments by referring to standard varieties as correct or ‘good’ English and the non-standard as incorrect or ‘bad’ English. While in contrast, descriptive view aims to describe language as it is actually use. The rules are more like a blueprint for building well-formed structures, and they represent speaker’s unconscious knowledge, or ‘mental grammar’ of the language (Norbert Schmitt, 2002). The real acceleration of change in linguistic description and pedagogy occurred during the twentieth century, in which a number of movements influenced the field only to be replaced or modified by subsequent developments.
Early in the 20th century, understanding literary works was the sole purpose of English Language Learning (ELL). Researchers and teachers focus primarily on reading and grammatical skills (Richards & Rodgers, 2001) and listening was not regarded as an important component of language teaching. Breeding a fluctuation in the attention given to listening started by changes in approaches to language teaching which led to changes in classroom applications. Listening became increasingly integrated into English teaching curricula in the 1970s, and has preserved its place until today (Cinemre, 1991). Now, there is a considerable number of researchers and scholars who give paramount importance to the skill (e.g., Berne, 2004; Brown, 2008; Jia & Fu, 2011). Lundsteen (1979) states that listening is the basis for other skills, is true for second language (L2) as well as first language (L1) acquisition. Learners need to listen to language input. Without this they cannot produce in other language skill areas which lead to no learning (Rost, 1994). Therefore, the importance of teaching listening can well be seen. For being a complex phenomenon, teaching listening has caught the attention of many researchers (e.g., Brown, 2008; Hayati & Mohmedi, 2011; Hinkel, 2006; Vandergrift, 2007) and teachers in pursuit of finding ways for classroom instruction.
Applying strategies has become mounting concern for both teachers and learners. However, using these strategies alone will not help neither learners to develop their listening nor teachers who attempt to use varies techniques in their classes. Lundsteen (1979) defines listening as the process in which spoken language changes into meaning in the mind. To convert spoken foreign language in the mind, learners should be aware of the phonological features of the language. This fact signals the importance of the pronunciation component of language learning. As part of successful communication, pronunciation teaching has become important (Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin, 1996). With the rise of the communicative approach in language teaching, increasing need of teaching pronunciation has triggered researchers to work on various components of pronunciation. One which is the subject of this study is the absence of the elements in the learner’s language and contrastive teaching of them on listening comprehension. The literature suggests that pronunciation cannot be dissociated from other foreign language skills (e.g., Celce-Murcia, Brinton, & Goodwin, 1996); in fact it has a significant relation to listening comprehension. Therefore, teaching these interrelated skills together in classrooms so as to develop both may be encouraged.
1.2. Statement of the problem
Listening is one of the most challenging skills for EFL learners to develop as it is probably the least explicit of the four language skills (Vandergrift, 2004). It is a key to all effective communications, without effective listening ability, messages are easily misunderstood- communication breaks down and the sender of the message can easily become frustrated and irritated. In the field of English Language Teaching, listening has been neglected as language skill, or practiced in inadequate ways. Students often find a tremendous amount of difficulties while they are listening to the language they are learning (Sevil Ak, 2012). They are disappointed by the inability to comprehend recorded dialogues, or songs, even if the elements of stress and intonation are slowly enunciated. The time an individual is engaged in communication is devoted approximately 9 per cent to writing, 16 percent to reading, 30 per cent to speaking, and 45 per cent to listening (Rivers and Temperley 1978; Oxford 1993; Celce-Murica 1995). So, despite of the importance of this skill, it is one of the most problematic areas for foreign language learners and plays an important role in language learning.
To develop this skill, different methods and activities have been applied. Teachers use pre listening activities like free discussion on the topic by the use of included words, or writing new or unfamiliar words on board, or other activities based on the learners’ level and amount of knowledge. Nevertheless, listening has remained one of the most difficult skills due to certain reasons and should be given more attention (Rivers 1968; Widdowson 1978; Mc Carty 1991, Long 1985; Ur