English language teachers have been used to the presentation method of language teaching. This situation has led to poor performance of students in some areas of English language studies. This study was designed to find the effect of digital language laboratory on teacher trainee’s achievement in oral English. A quasi experimental design which involved the use of intact classes was adopted for the study. There were three research questions which were answered while three hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance. All the seventy-seven year one students of the department of language studies, Enugu State College of Education Technical, Enugu and sixty students of the department of English, Institute of Ecumenical Education Thinkers Corner, Enugu were used for the study. In assigning the subjects to control and experimental groups, the seventy-seven students of ESCET and sixty students from Ecumenical were used respectively. The experimental group was exposed to digital laboratory method while the control was exposed to the presentation method of teaching. The instrument used for the study was Oral Production Test. The scores obtained from the pretest were used for the item analysis and the calculation of the reliability indices. Applying Kuder Richard formula 20 the reliability indices of 0.98 was found.
The mean scores and the standard deviation were computed and were used for answering the research questions, while the analysis of variance was adopted to test the hypotheses. It was found that digital language laboratory method of teaching was significantly more effective than the presentation method in the teaching of oral English. The results of the study show that the use of digital language laboratory method enhances instruction on oral English. It was recommended that oral English teachers should adopt the use of digital language laboratory as a method of teaching phonetics and phonology.
Background of the study
Language is recognized as one of the greatest human achievements. The acquisition of language is unique to human beings. Although other species can communicate in their own way, only humans have attained the most highly developed system of communication by the use of words and expressions (Bell, 1981). Communication is the transfer of message from one party to another so that it can be understood and be acted upon (Eyre, 1983). This goes to show how important language is to human beings.
Language can be acquired and can also be learned. For language acquisition, it is the term most commonly used to describe the process whereby children become speakers of their native languages (Bell, 1981). It can also mean a natural acquisition of a second language while language learning can best be explained as a process of problem-solving in which the leaner exposed to the data of the language attempts to create cognitive maps. Language learning is also a term commonly used to describe the process whereby children and adults formally learn a language mainly a second language. It is a complex set of process especially when that language is a second one to the learner.
In Nigeria, English is the second language. It is a second language because there are other indigenous languages. Nigeria had about two hundred and fifty indigenous languages in use before the introduction of English language (Anibueze, 2007). English is firmly established as the official language and outside the mandatory official context, English is the major language of instruction, social services, business communication and occupational purposes. It is notionally considered as a measure for literacy and outstanding status. It is the language for scientific and technological innovation. It is also used for international trade and conferences. English is virtually the language now in use at home, in the market places, in religious houses, in playgrounds, in social and political gatherings.
English is necessary for accessing discourse at a global level, from international relations to popular culture and to academia (Makay, 2002). English language is the first and foremost medium of national and international communication in this present time. Nigerians need English so as to be able to communicate and interact with the native speakers and non-native speakers. Nigerian child needs English language to be able to communicate with his neighbours. Indeed, the Nigerian child requires proficiency in it so as to be able to express his everyday experiences. Nigerian children have to understand other people and be understood with less difficulty (Azikiwe, 2007).
English language is needed in Nigeria for individual development and educational advancement and employment. This is true when one considers the mental exercises that are needed to be accurate in writing and reading, speaking and listening in foreign language other than the mother tongue. The teaching of the English language in Nigerian schools and colleges is organized around these four language skills- Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. But despite all efforts made to teach these skills, the Nigerian students’ level of language proficiency is still below expectation.
The English language paper is presently divided into three broad groups – paper I- Essay, comprehension and Summary, paper II- Objective questions and paper III Test of orals. The little emphasis placed on test of orals is evident as paper I- Essay, Comprehension and Summary gets the lion share of the mark allocation of 100 while paper II- Objectives and paper III share the remaining insignificant marks of 100. Also in the planning of the time table, the time table planners usually see English as one subject and allot equal number of time to English as other subjects. When this happens the subject teacher only concentrate on essay and comprehension that will provide him with enough exercises as would be demanded by the principals and state supervisors.
From 2002 to 2004, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Chief Examiners’ reports of the students performances in West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) showed that the overall performance of students was poor. A close look at the reports by Chief Examiners will help to confirm the poor performance of these students. In (2002) Students’ weaknesses were discovered in the area of essay writing. According to the report, majority of the students were ignorant of the components of essay topics such as content, organization, expression and mechanical accuracy. The report from the Chief Examiner further explained that many compositions were seriously marred by poor spellings, poor punctuations and faulty grammar. Also the students were ignorant of the use of comma, full-stop and question mark. Interchangeable use of words is another error discovered. For instance where for were. The uses of ones for once, no for know, had for heard and so on.
The Chief Examiner in (2003) examination report gave some weaknesses discovered among Senior Secondary School Students. The students were found to be ignorant of the proper use of punctuation and letters, the proper use of capital and small letters, the different between the present and past tenses, restating the ideas of passage in different words and expressions and identifying parts of speech and how they function in sentences.
The (2004) Senior Secondary School Examination report showed that, the students could not punctuate properly and could not spell adequately. The evidences of the students’ poor performances in their examinations now call for proper examination of the problems hindering the students from meeting up to expectations in the use of the English language.
Many things can hinder students’ progress in academic performance. These hindrances can be traced to teachers and their teaching methods, poor learning environment, students’ poor background and indiscriminate use of mother tongue. The ability to detect the problems of students in their process of learning is very important. The major problems according to Nnamani (2010) is that when a student fails, people blame him for not performing well without minding or taking a look at the factors that might have impeded or caused his poor performance.
In the school system English language is a compulsory subject. At the junior secondary school level, the English language comprises of language and literature. Language is divided into four components – morphology, syntax, lexis and phonology. All these are integrated into one and taught as a single subject in both junior and senior secondary schools. Oral English as part of phonology has to do with speech sounds of a particular language like English which can be effectively taught with the use of the digital language laboratory. Speech is very important in English language teaching and learning. Ezeomeke (2000) states that no matter the dexterity of a professional, he needs to speak to attract clients and no matter how well a teacher may be, he also needs to speak well to motivate his students. This is probably why Wilkins (1972) cited in Ezeomeke (2000) insists that although mastery of both the spoken and written forms are necessary for effective language use, speech is the primary manifestation of language and writing is both secondary and dependent on it.
In addition, Oral English is important because it helps the students to develop the ability to understand an internally accepted variety of English at a normal conversational speed (Ezeomeke 2000). It also helps them to develop the ability to engage in sustained dialogues and conversations with other users of internationally accepted variety of English. Students, especially those of them in senior secondary schools, dread the subject because of its technical nature. This has been traced to either the technical nature of phonemic symbols or the methodology applied by the teachers. No wonder Okoli (2007) writes that Phonetics and Phonology are often dreaded by many students especially as some students find it difficult to apply themselves to a lot of punctuation practice drills which usually punctuate phonetics and phonology courses.