Improving the English-speaking skills of Chinese primary EFL learners with a verbotonal approach
Keywords:Chinese, EFL learners, English speaking skills, improving, primary, verbotonal approah
Among the four language skills, speaking was identified as the poorest skill for Chinese primary EFL learners. Although many teaching approaches from the mainstream have been adopted to redress the problem, teaching and learning outcomes for speaking are still disappointing. The verbotonal approach, developed initially as a therapy for people with hearing difficulties, has also been shown to be effective in the learning of foreign languages. However, in the Chinese context, it has never been used to teach speaking skills to primary school students and it is commonly used to teach pronunciation rather than speaking. To bridge the gap, the present study devised a verbotonal-based approach for improving the speaking skills of Chinese primary EFL learners. Eighty Grade 3 students from a rural primary school in China participated in the study. The experimental group undertook the intervention while the control group followed the traditional way of learning to speak English. Time on task was the same for both groups. After a period of 18 weeks, the experimental group improved significantly in both overall speaking proficiency and individual tests: word-reading, sentence-reading, singing and oral interview, as well as five subskills: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, fluency and comprehensibility. Additionally, the experimental group outperformed the control group in all aspects tested. Finally, the experimental group topped the district examinations whereas the control group obtained an average score. These findings suggest that the verbotonal approach was of considerable benefit to the learning of English speaking skills in the participating group.
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