Academic journal article International Education Studies

Innovative Second Language Speaking Practice with Interactive Videos in a Rich Internet Application Environment

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Innovative Second Language Speaking Practice with Interactive Videos in a Rich Internet Application Environment

Article excerpt


Attaining a satisfactory level of oral communication in a second language is a laborious process. In this action research paper we describe a new method applied through the use of interactive videos and the Babelium Project Rich Internet Application (RIA), which allows students to practice speaking skills through a variety of exercises. We present an experience with a number of interactive video exercises used in a real world scenario with nearly 100 students of English as a Second Language at a Spanish university. The use of interactive videos with the Babelium application has allowed our students to record their voices and faces (using microphones and webcams) and to be weekly evaluated according to a set of defined oral evaluation criteria. Based on the results of a survey conducted at the end of the semester, we demonstrate that the students involved in this research experiment have significantly increased the number of hours devoted to speaking practice comparing to the methods used in previous years. Finally, this paper suggests new types of interactive video-based exercises to further improve the outcome of the speaking practice with the help of the Babelium Project application.

Keywords: speaking practice, rich internet applications, English as a second language, interactive videos, reading practice, action research

1. Introduction

1.1 Teaching and Learning L2 Phonetic and Oral Skills in Spain

The IPA or International Phonetic Alphabet is the most widely used method of teaching the pronunciation of the English language. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pho-net-ics, fb-ne-tiks/, is the system of speech sounds of a language. The complexity of speaking correctly has been well recognized through a close look at the key components of oral production identified by researchers over the years. Teachers taking the time to stress the importance of phonetics will help students to better communicate in the English language. Short-term laboratory perceptual training procedures expose that exercises in phonetics are beneficial in the learning of English as a second language (Bradlow, Akahane-Yamada, Pisoni, & Tohkura, 1999). Spanish students have an enormous problem when they have to speak English. The main reason derives from the fact that out of the 36 English phonemes, Spanish students can only recognize 18 from Spanish (Goldstein & Iglesias, 1996). English has a lot of monosyllabic words while Spanish is polysyllabic. Moreover, intonation, stress, and rhythm are essential in communication and the two languages are very different from each other in these respects. Alía, González, Membrillera, Molinero, & Serrano (2005) presented an article where they expounded that English intonation is completely opposite to the Spanish one. Gómez (2009) analyzes, among others, studies (Cenoz & García Lecumberri, 1997; Cenoz & García Lecumberri, 1999) related to Spanish students of English as a second language and she concludes that "Spanish learners of English showing that discrimination instruction on English vowels and diphthongs also produced significant gains". Cenoz & García Lecumberri (1997) found, however, that these gains were not the same for all subjects, training proving more efficient in the case of students with poorer performance in pre-test. Intonation is also very difficult to teach because we need to focus not just on general meanings such as questions or negations, but on others related to the speaker's attitude. For this reason, some messages are not clear for the Spanish speaker when they have to face a new rhythm pattern such as the English one. English rhythm produces confusion in Spanish speakers who try to participate in the conversation. When students have to read aloud a text, new problems appear because, as Jiang & Grabe (2011) affirm, "fluent word recognition involves an interaction of activated orthographic, phonological, and semantic and syntactic processes. …

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