Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Assessing Speaking Ability in Academic Context for Fourth Year Taif University Students

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Assessing Speaking Ability in Academic Context for Fourth Year Taif University Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

The speaking skill is an important part of the curriculum in language teaching, and this makes it an important object of assessment. This study is based on a qualitative method of research where a description is produced about the quality of the speech production of the candidates. The purpose is to examine whether learners use features of that indicates advanced knowledge of English in their production. For this purpose, forty-seven university students, who were fourth-year majoring in English literature, who are taking the subject "Preparation for International Test" took an interview for their oral production final exam. After the analysis, the results will show the degree of proficiency the students are at as far as their speech production. The results will also reveal if there is statistically significant difference between the students regarding their proficiency levels and frequency of appropriate use of spoken features. Then immediate implications drawn from the results obtained in this study can help sheds light on using curriculum designed to enhance learners' speaking skills in the future.

Keywords: Oral proficiency, oral language assessment, oral language instruction, EFL speaking skills

1. Literature Review

The ability to speak in a foreign language is of great importance when it comes to language efficiency. The ability to reason and express our thoughts is reflected in our spoken performance. Speaking is also the most difficult language skill to assess reliably. A person's speaking ability is usually judged during a face-to-face interaction, in real time, between an interlocutor and a candidate. The assessor has to make instantaneous judgments about a range of aspects of what is being said, as it is being said. This means that the assessment might depend not only upon which particular features of speech (e.g., pronunciation, accuracy, fluency) the interlocutor pays attention to at any point in time, but upon a host of other factors such as the language level, gender, and status of the interlocutor and the personal characteristics of the interlocutor. Moreover the nature of the interaction, the sorts of tasks that are presented to the examinee, the questions asked will have an impact on the performance. Therefore, assessing speaking is not an impossible task, but it is difficult (Luoma, 2004).

Speaking in a second language has been considered the most challenging of the four skills because it is productive skill that involves a complex process of constructing meaning (Celce-Murcia & Olshtain, 2000). It is also the most complex skill because of the simultaneous monitoring and planning of utterances. This process requires speakers to make decisions about why, how and when to communicate depending on the cultural and social context in which the speaking act occurs (Burns & Seidlhofer, 2002).

Reading aloud is a common way of developing this skill in addition to tests using visual material as stimuli are common test procedures for testing speaking. Other activities for testing speaking include oral interviews, group or pair role play tests. The difficulty of testing the speaking skill is a well known fact by language educators. However, one of the great difficulties in testing speaking is the assessment itself and the scoring process. The speaking tasks is preferably recorded and the scoring done from the tape. Aspects of speaking that might be considered in the assessment scale are grammar, pronunciation, fluency, and content.

2. Background

One of the primary objectives of teaching oral communication is enhancing students' ability to use oral language in various contexts. Speaking is often interactive, involving more than one person at the same time. It can be monologic, involving one speaker. The social aspect of the skill cannot be denied as it makes the level of student' performance vary. A wide range of verbal skills are displayed by students such as maintaining a dialogue or participating in interview tests. …

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