Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Online Speaking Strategy Assessment for Improving Speaking Ability in the Area of Language for Specific Purposes: The Case of Tourism

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Online Speaking Strategy Assessment for Improving Speaking Ability in the Area of Language for Specific Purposes: The Case of Tourism

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to compare the differences in strategies used in an online language for specific purposes (LSP) speaking test in tourism with two proficiency groups of students, and to investigate the strategies that should be used for low-proficiency students to improve their LSP speaking ability. The Web-based Speaking Test in English for Tourism (WBST-EFT) and a coding scheme were used as research instruments. Descriptive statistics, the Man-Whitney U test, percentages, and qualitative content analysis from verbal reports were used in the data analysis. The findings showed that the two proficiency groups significantly and differently reported cognitive and metacognitive strategies for this LSP online speaking test. The qualitative results indicated that high-proficiency students used more complex details in all of the sub-strategies than the low-proficiency students. Low-proficiency students should be trained to effectively employ these strategies to improve their LSP speaking ability through the use of an online LSP speaking test that has been considered as an effective tool and that provides an opportunity for students to self-assess and self-practice their performances. Both strategies and online speaking tools can be used with a large number of students to develop LSP speaking ability in tourism.

Keywords: speaking strategies, English for tourism speaking performance, language for specific purposes, online speaking test

1. Introduction

The tourism enterprise is one of the major sources of income for Thailand and creates approximately 6.7% of the kingdom's gross domestic product, with approximately 18.82 million tourists arriving in 2011 (Thailand Tourist Arrivals, 2011). For this reason, a large number of educational institutions offer English for Tourism courses to produce proficient English speaking staffmembers, particularly tour guides. Since tour guides are among the key individuals in various tourism enterprises that directly communicate with linguistically-diverse tourists, English speaking skills are essential for their chosen career.

Despite the importance of the tourism industry in the Thai economy, English for Tourism course is taught at Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University (NRRU) to approximately 20,000 students. As part of the course requirements, students have to pass a test at a certain levels of English language speaking performance. A semi-direct online-mediated speaking test was purposively employed in this study to solve the administration problems at the university caused by the large number of students and because of its practical advantages. Test administration in this case is flexible, as an online speaking test is easy to construct. It is also considered cost-effective because of the free downloadable platform that is available (Garcia Laborda, 2007a). Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for students to self-assess and practice their performances (Chapelle & Douglas, 2006). Additionally, recent studies indicate that non-native English students praise the interactive part of computer-mediated speaking tests, which can simulate real life situations, and they can use this technology on a daily basis. They also feel more comfortable taking this semi-direct speaking test than a direct speaking test (Yu, 2012). However, very few research studies have been conducted on an online speaking test (Garcia Laborda, 2007a), specifically regarding the strategies used for LSP in the tourism context.

According to Douglas (2000), English for Tourism is considered to be one area of language for specific purposes (LSP). This classification is from the utilization of English for a particular purpose in a targeted setting.

Following Douglas's views (2000), LSP ability is a result of the interaction between specific purpose background knowledge and language ability in which strategic competence acts as mediator between language knowledge and background knowledge and test input. …

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