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The study was designed to investigate Effective Oracy Skills and Pronunciation of Secondary School Students and their Academic Performance in Akwa Ibom State. Three research questions and three hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. To conduct the study, the researcher adopted a descriptive research design. A simple random sampling technique was used to select one hundred and twenty (120) students from six (6) secondary school. Senior secondary three students (SS3) from six (6) secondary school in Uyo Local Government Area constituted the sample. The scores obtained were analysed using Pearson Product Moment Correlation for hypotheses one and three and chi-square for hypotheses two. The findings revealed that there is a significant relationship in effective oracy skills and pronunciation of secondary school students and their academic performance in Akwa Ibom state. Based on the result, some recommendations were made, one of which is the existing curriculum of secondary schools on English language should be expanded to accommodate all the rudiments of English language.
1.1 Background of the study
Language is the method of human communication that is either spoken or written but which consists of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Language is the most brilliant of human inventions. It is also about the most useful. By means of language, people who live together are able to interact and express their thoughts and feelings. Gimson (1980) describes language as
a system of conventional signals used for communication by a whole community. This pattern of conventions covers a system of significant sound units, the inflection and arrangement of words and the association of meaning with words. (p.45).
Hall (1968) in his essay on language says that language is “an institution whereby humans communicate and interact with each other by means of habitually used oral auditory arbitrary symbols”.
Sapir (1921) sees language as a
Purely human and non instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and the desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols. (p.18)
The three explications of language given above agree on certain issues, first that language is arbitrary and conventional in the sense that there is often no link between a word and what it means but there exist some form of unwritten agreement or convention about the way language is used. This is like saying that a flat-topped wooden or iron furniture with four supports is called a table not because of any reason other than that the English people by agreement or later by convention calls it that. Therefore language is arbitrary and conventional, its use being peculiar to human beings, its being non instinctive and therefore learned and its function of being the tool with which a speech community exchange ideas and express emotions.
Lastly, that language is non instinctive, this means that language is a learned behaviour and that language is human and is used by a group of people (a speech community) who agree on how certain symbols are to be used. Also, that although there are animal signs and computer language for example, it is the speech of human beings that is elaborate and systematic enough to be studied. This shows language to be a peculiarly human behaviour.
Most explication of language given above asserts that language is made up of phonic, vocal, oral-auditory and conventional symbols. This stresses the fact that every language is first spoken before it is written down. That there are many languages in the world that have no alphabet and as such have never been written shows that it is the sounds of language which are organized into meaningful patterns for communication. It is speech there that is first and foremost language; writing develops later as a result of education. It is for this reason that one can learn a language with all its patterns and rules. This is the manner to which a child requires the sounds which make up the system of his mother tongue, so the study of language is primarily a study of its speech sounds, studying a language is also important because every language has it specific number of sounds which it employs for communication by speech some of these sounds are perculiar to it community, some share it with other languages.
It is speech sounds of a language that are assigned symbols used for its graphic presentation. According to Bamgbose and Akere (1991) “effective communication therefore depends on one’s ability to express oneself in speech clearly, accurately and fluently”. Ekong (2001) states that “emphasis must be laid on speaking or oral skills in the primary schools”. This he said means that, primary school is the basis or cradle where a learner of second language starts from. He further went to say that oral skills development or speaking skills are better taught in the appropriate social context. In other words teaching methods must be pragmatics.
Anderson (1984:64) says that for learners of second language, it cannot play down the role of the mother tongue in the articulation of English sounds. It is because of this fact that a substantial proportion of lessons on oral English must be devoted to the correct pronunciation of English sounds, words and sentences.
Considering the effect of mother tongue on oral skills development as a problem to a secondary school student in Akwa Ibom State, Awobuluyi and Ekong (1991) observe that “the greatest influence on the pronunciation of English by secondary school students is the sound system of vernacular language”. Due to this problem, various strategies have been employed in oral skills development and student academic performance in secondary schools. Some of these strategies include the use of phoneme. Phoneme can be used both in vowel and consonant sounds. Students should be able to develop an effective oracy skills and pronunciation by distinguishing the differences between speech sounds. Secondly, they should be involved in the use of dialogue that is they should be involved in series of conversations such as debate, essay writing and quiz competition within and outside the school environment which will help in enhancing their spoken English and also develop their oracy skills and pronunciation. The teacher should endeavour to frequently use English in her conversation or communication with the students; this will enhance effective oracy skills and pronunciation of secondary school students and their performance.
1.2 Statement of the problem
A second language learner is already armed with the instrument of his first language which can either aid him in the learning of the target language or impede the learning process. The tendency is for the learner to fall back on the sounds, words and structure of the first language to perform in the second language. When the tendency is positive, first language facilitates the learning of the second language but when it impedes it has interfered.
In the Nigerian situation specifically Akwa Ibom, English is the second language used. This language looks new and sounds strange in the ears of the learners. The strangeness and the newness of English to learners stem from phonology differences between the target language and the mother tongue. The phonological differences lead to phonological interference in which the learner is tempted to impose the speech habit of the first language.
Since English is the language of government, commerce, education and the mass media, it therefore becomes pertinent for Ibibio learners of English to communicate in English which is both nationally and internationally intelligible. The ineffectiveness of some teachers to communicate well in English poses a problem to oral skills development of the students and is often noticed in the area of dissimilarities than similarities with English and this can cause learning difficulties. For instance, in spelling sounds the dental fricative /θ/ and the / / are sometimes realized as /t/ and /d/, the voiced velar plosive /g/ becomes/k/, the voiceless palatal affricates /dz/ is often realized as /j/, the voiced labiodentals fricative /v/ is often produced as /f/ while the voiced alveolar fricative is /z/ tends to be realized as /s/ by Ibibio learners of English at the early stages. Due to mother tongue influence, learners tend to substitute sounds with the nearest vowel or consonant sound due to the absent of some sounds in Ibibio language example includes gun /gvn/ and gone /gc:n/ bus /bvs/ and boss /bc:s/, hurt /hz:t/ and hut /hvt/, goat/geut/ and coat /keut/. Spelling pattern in English also becomes a problem to learners. Many words are not pronounced according to their spellings and this causes ineffectiveness to learners oracy skill and pronunciation example of such words includes sword /sc:d/, gnat /naet/, honour /c:ne/.
1.3 Purpose of the study
The main purpose of the study was to examine effective oracy skills and pronunciation of secondary school students and their academic performance in Akwa Ibom State. Specifically the study was designed to;
1. examine if the frequent use of English relates with academic performance of students in spoken English.
2. examine if the difference in vowel sounds in Ibibio and English influence the student’s performance in English language.
3. examine if the similarity in vowel sounds in Ibibio and English relates with the performance of students in English language.
1.4 Significance of the study
This study is of great significance to the entire educational system. In other to erode the influence of mother tongue, the findings of the study will guide students, teachers, educators and education planners to know the appropriate strategies for teaching effective oral skills and pronunciation of secondary schools students.
1.5 Research questions
In consonance with the stated purpose the following research questions were formulated to direct the study.
1. How does the frequent use of English relate with academic performance of students in spoken English
2. How does the difference in vowel sounds of Ibibio and English influence the students performance in English language
3. How does the similarities in sounds of Ibibio and English relate with the performance of students in English language.
1.6 Research hypotheses
Based on the research questions, the following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study.
1. Frequent use of English does not significantly relate with the academic performance of students in English language.
2. The difference in the vowel sound of Ibibio and English does not significantly influence the academic performance of students.
3. The similarities in sounds of Ibibio and English does not significantly relate with the academic performance of students in English language.
1.7 Basic assumptions of the study
1. Frequent use of English significantly relate with the academic performance of students in spoken English in secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State.
2. The difference in the vowel sounds of English and Ibibio significantly influence the academic performance of students in English language in secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State.
3. The similarities in sounds of English and Ibibio significantly relates with the academic performance of students in English language in secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State.
1.8 Limitation of the study
This study is limited to only six (6) public secondary schools in Uyo Akwa Ibom State.
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