Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Effects of Teaching Strategies and Topic Familiarity on Persian Speaking Ielts Candidates' Speaking Scores

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Effects of Teaching Strategies and Topic Familiarity on Persian Speaking Ielts Candidates' Speaking Scores

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

A plethora of studies over the 1970s (Naiman, Fröhlich, Stern & Todesco, 1978; Rubin, 1975; Stem, 1975) scrutinized EFL learners' strategy use, the taire when successful English language learners were called 'good language learners'. Such research encouraged further research investigating the different effects of strategy use by language learners. Thus, the question of strategy training (Nation & Newton, 2009) has been a significant issue. The application of different types of strategies and whether they are to be taught explicitly has always been an interesting question for EFL teachers and SLA researchers. Strategy training has been studied in ah language skills, i.e., listening (Ridgway, 2000a; Watts, 1986), speaking (Sayer, 2005), readmg (Baker, 2002; Block & Pressley, 2007; Grabe, 2009), and writing (Ameri-Golestan, 2012; Ferris, 2011), as well as other areas hi language learning and teaching, such as negotiation strategies (Anderson & Lynch, 1988), vocabulary strategies (Nation, 2008), among others.

However, speaking strategies, relevant to this study hi particular, have been considered as an essential part of language learning strategy training. Sometimes cahed with certam other labels, such as communication strategies, conversation skills, and oral communication strategies (Mendez, 2011), speaking strategies are especiahy important because they assist English language "in negotiating meaning where either linguistic structures or sociohnguistic rules are not shared between a second language learner and a speaker of the target language" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990, p.43).

As Hedge (2000) put it, successful language learners are those who are able to benefit from speaking strategies. This is the ultimate goal of a competent EFL learner and user. Speaking strategies are needed when language learners are not able to handle a speaking situation appropriately or they cannot communicate meaning "because they lack the resources to do so successfully" (Hedge, 2000, p. 52).

Foreign language learners are engaged in speaking or conversations in a variety of situations, ranging from classroom interaction with the teacher and peers to possible face-to-face communication with native speakers. In many of these situations, they have to resort to speaking strategies because they lack the resources to communicate what they intend meaningfully. One such situation is oral exams in which language learners face plenty of breakdowns in communicating their message, which can be due to anxiety as well as the inability to retrieve information from memory. Whatever the reason for the breakdown, speaking strategies seem to be quite beneficial for these learners. However, there has been quite a bit of controversy over this issue: should strategies be taught? One of the opponents of strategy training is Kellerman (1991) who indicated that language learners resort to strategies in their first language when they face a breakdown in communication. In other words, Kellerman maintained that since language learners transfer communication strategies from their LI, there is no point in teaching them, explicitly, what such strategies are.

There are many researchers who disagree with Kellerman. Canale (1983), for example, supported strategy training in speaking. Canale indicated that language learners can benefit from such training and language teachers are required to explicitly present these strategies and how they are implemented in a foreign language context. There has been some research to support this position. Mendez (2011), for example, pointed out that since language learners do not transfer communication strategies from their LI, they must be taught. She beheved that if this training is not done, learners become dependent on their teachers (Mendez, 2007). Similarly, Nakatani (2005) showed how participants who were trained for strategies improved in their speaking tests (see also Field, 2000; Goh, 2000; Issitt, 2008; Mugford, 2007; Ridgway, 2000 b for similar results). …

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