Call/WhatsApp: +1 914 416 5343

General Foundation Program in Oman

Investigating barriers to EFL students’ development of speaking ability at General Foundation Program in Oman

I​‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‌‍‌‌‍‍‍‌‍‌‌‌‍​nvestigating barriers to EFL students’ development of speaking ability at General Foundation Programs in Oman Research questions: 1) What could be the barriers to EFL students’ development of speaking ability at GFPs? 2) What could be the strategies which contribute in EFL students’ development of speaking ability at GFPs? Investigating barriers to EFL students’ development of speaking ability at General Foundation Programs in Oman Background: Speaking is considered as the most difficult and complex skill to be developed by EFL learners. Specifically , the learners struggle with the development of this skill when the learning setting is happening in an EFL context where most of the students do not have the opportunity to speak English outside the classroom setting (Al Hosni, S. 2014) .Likewise, speaking in the General Foundation Programs (GFP) is considered as the most challenging skill after writing. Students always struggle with expressing their ideas despite the fact that they spent more than 10 years in studying the English language at primary and secondary schools. Most of the students of GFP have low language proficiency especially at the level of the productive skills which are speaking and writing. Statement of the problem: Most of the curriculum and syllabus designs are opting for communicative language teaching (CLT) approach in teaching English as a foreign language. This approach involves intensive communication inside the classroom where the students are encouraged to interact and use the language to express their ideas and participate in classroom discussion. As a matter of fact, students’ speaking ability development is essential so that the students can take an active part in classroom discussions and be enabled to progress in their language learning process. However, there are barriers to students’ development of speaking abilities and skills. Some of the challenges are psychological such as anxiety (Woodrow, Lindy 2006), These barriers should be studied in the Omani context where students need to develop their speaking abilities to succeed at both academic level and social level where they interact with a large number of expatriates working at different sectors of economy and business. Objectives: The aim of this research is to investigate the challenges that face the students’ speaking ability development in the classroom. The researcher tries to explore the different sorts of difficulties that hinder the students’ development of speaking ability I a classroom setting. In addition to that, the study aims at finding out the factors which cripple the development of students’ speaking abilities. Significance of the study: This study will shed light on the difficulties that frustrate the GFP students which is speaking abilities in a classroom setting. Thanks to this study, the teachers, the experts of curriculum design will have a better understanding about the challenges affecting students’ communication inside the class and the different factors which cause them. Research questions: 1) What could be the barriers to EFL students’ development of speaking ability at GFPs? 2) What could be the factors affecting EFL students’ development of speaking ability at GFPs? Research hypotheses (optional): Definition of terms: Communicative language teaching: is an approach to language teaching that emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of study. (Wikipedia) Productive skills: The productive skills are speaking and writing, because learners doing these need to produce language. They are also known as active skills. They can be compared with the receptive skills of listening and reading. Literature review Introduction: This section introduces an overview of the literature related to speaking skills. It is composed of 3 sections which are conceptual framework, theoretical framework and past studies. Conceptual framework: According to Florez (1999), speaking is “an interactive process of constructing meaning both its form and meaning”. Also, Chastain (1988) defined speaking as a means thatS2ED enables the language learners to participate in the different classroom tasks and express their feelings and thoughts. Besides, he revealed that speaking enhances second language learning. As a matter of fact, speaking occupies an important position in the foreign language learning. Undeniably, teachers rely on the students’ oral communication to have information about their degree of understanding and to what extent they have learnt (Edge, 1999). The lack of the communicative competence will deepen the gap between the teacher and the learners and consequently hinder learning. Several researchers dealt with the speaking skill and the obstacles which hinder its developments. One of the barriers is the lack of the exposure to the target language. Al-Sobhi & Preece,(2018) stated that the environment has a primordial role in enhancing the language development in general. The EFL context deprives the learners from a maximized use of the target language because the opportunities of speaking the language outside the walls of the classroom are very limited. Consequently, the EFL learners face some difficulties in developing their communication skills in such an unfavourable environment. The lack of motivation can constitute another obstacle to oral communication skills. In fact, Littlewood (1984) states that motivation is the driving power that gives the learner an incentive to engage in a task and determines how much interest and effort he dedicates to it. If the teacher provides a positive classroom environment where the students find themselves engaged in meaningful conversations related to their life context, their demand for communication will probably increase. Students’ anxiety and lack of confidence can be one barrier which impedes EFL learners’ speaking skill development. Anxiety has a negative impact on the language learning process as it makes them less involved in oral conversations. Students’ anxiety arises from a feeling of fear of negative evaluation of the listeners and failure of not being understood. Consequently, they avoid taking the risk of putting themselves in an embarrassing situation (Al-Sobhi & Preece 2018). The lack of confidence can represent an obstacle to the amelioration of the learners’ speaking proficiency. Krashen (1982) argues that language learners with high self-confidence are likely to succeed in second language learning. Besides, to language anxiety and the lack of self-confidence, low language proficiency can impede the learners’ speaking skill development. A limited knowledge of vocabulary, grammatical rules and the functional use of the language can affect negatively the students’ speaking skill development. This is in line with Canale & Swain (1980) who believe that the learners’ knowledge of sound and words pronunciation and how to use words in meaningful utterances are essential. From a pedagogical point of view, non-effective teaching strategies and methods have negative impact on the learners’ communicative competence. Theoretical base: The aim of this study is to explore the barriers which hinder the learners’ speaking skill development and the implementation of strategies to enhance the learner’s communicative competence. Early theories of second language acquisition focused on the idea that learning the language takes place by imitation and repetition. This was in line with the behaviourist of language learning principles which highly valued the importance of the environment and marginalised the role of the individual in second language learning. The audio-lingual method is a teaching approach which emerged from behaviourism and it is mainly based on habit formation and repetition. Brown & Principles (2001) argued that the audio lingual method was strongly founded in linguistic and psychological theory which incorporate conditioning and habit-formation models of learning. Basing on this principle, speaking skill was learnt through dialogue memorization and the repetition of grammatical structure. In the late of 1970’s, researchers noticed that the learners could produce the language with accuracy, but they were unable to use the language to communicate in different situations ( Widdowson 1978). As a result, the communicative language teaching (CLT) approach emerged as a dissatisfaction with the audio lingual teaching method which did not allocate a great importance the pragmatic and the functional aspect of the language. The CLT was strongly grounded in the communicative competence theory which was advocated by Dell Hymes (1966). Dell Hymes believed that the language learners need more than the pure linguistic competence to be able to communicate in an effective way. As far as the speaking skill is concerned, the learners should take an active role in the second language learning. They should be engaged in a series of communicative activities which enable them to communicate in a meaningful way rather than memorising imposed decontextualized conversation. The adoption of CLT in teaching English as a foreign language provides the students with opportunities to produce the language in meaningful conversations relate​‌‍‍‍‌‍‍‌‍‌‌‍‍‍‌‍‌‌‌‍​d to authentic situations from their real life context. The students can negotiate problematic situation in collaborative learning context. A several researchers and educationist believe that the second language learning process is affected by external and internal factors. As one of the four skills of the language, speaking skill is also affected by these factors. The internal factor is purely psychological ones and they are related to the learner himself. The speaking skill development is highly affected by students’ anxiety and lack of confidence. This is in line with Harmer (2007) who believes that students avoid oral interventions in or out of the classroom because they are afraid of being mocked by others. Krashen (1982) argued that language learners with high level of self-confidence are more likely to learn better. Motivation is another internal factor which affects the speaking abilities of the second language learners. Lightbown & Spada (2006) argued that motivation in language learning is related to two important elements which are the need to communicate and the learners’ attitudes towards the language being learnt. Teaching methodology and the learning environment are two external factors affecting the learners’ speaking skill learning process. According to Al-Sobhi & Preece (2018), most of the classes in the Arab World are teacher-centred and the students are rarely engaged in meaningful free conversations during communicative language speaking tasks. Past studies