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1.1. Background to the study

Speaking skill is an important skill which must be learnt by all L2 learners of English, if the must be successful in the acquisition. According to Ezeka (2012) learning English speaking skill is very important to the secondary school learners. It exposes them to skills such as stress, rhythm and intonation which are very important if learners must be fluent speakers and proficient writers. So, it is necessary to learn stress, rhythm and intonation because they are parts of pronunciation.

Rhythm of speech is one of the different parts of a language. Spoken English words have more syllables. Some syllables are stressed weak and strong, some are stressed long and short. These are reasons why English language has its rhythm. It refers to the length of time between the main stress or accent and looks like a musical voice in human feeling (Abubakar, 2011). It has been said that every language has its rhythm. A person who is ill or weak in language may use language without senses of rhythm. It is easier for children than adult to learn or acquire rhythm of language.

Stress is the force placed on a word in speaking to make the meaning clear in many sentences. When you say some words with more force and others with less force. English has stress sounds on the main words such as verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs that we call Content Words such as nouns: bag, sauce, verbs: walk, drive, hit, adverbs: well, fast, and adjectives: fat, big, thin. And some words we do not stress they are called Function Words such as determiners: the, an, a, some, any, a few, auxiliary verbs: am, was, can, could, should, must etc., prepositions: near, next to, after etc., conjunctions: but, and, or, for, as etc., pronouns: he, she, we, they, him, her etc. There are the following eight patterns of word stress in English. Two syllable – Second Syllable Stressed include poLICE, reCORD. Types of stress include Emphatic Stress, Contrastive Stress, Tonic Stress, New Information Stress, Stress Timing, Degree of Stress.

Intonation is kinds of pitch which means the lowness or highness of sound. When saying such a sentence, the voice can rise to a higher tone or a lower tone. This makes speech lively and the meaning clear. Intonation is a problem of learning English for learners who want to speak the language fluently as a native speaker. Intonation is the music of a language, and it is maybe the most important factor of good accent. English has intonation to tell the way speakers express themselves. Types of intonation include falling and rising tone. English language intonation is the music of the language. We use tone to show emotion or to ask questions. In each conversation, it is necessary to remember the meaning behind the tones. If the conversation is not clear or can not understand, we use tones to avoid misunderstandings between the speaker and the listener.

Therefore, learners of English language as a second language are mostly faced with the problem of oral proficiency in terms of appropriate pronunciation of English sounds (phonemes) either by virtue of being a new language or mother tongue or first language interference. However, there has been emphasis on the quest for Standard English, hence; an English language Instructor as well as learner must aim at proficiency to a degree of the standard form (Standard English or Received Pronunciation). This enables the instructor and the learner to acquire adequate competence for practical purpose of teaching and everyday communication.

In a country where English is considered an official language, the acquisition of adequate oral skill for attaining acceptable level of communicative competence is required. A mastery of spoken language is highly desirable yet, its teaching and learning is faced with many problems especially at the secondary school level of education. The reason is that many students come into school with insufficient language knowledge. However, for fear of making mistakes and being mocked, some students feel rather timid in participating in oral tasks. Thus, learning English as a target language is compulsory because the majority of students at the tertiary level of education may not have ample opportunity to learn English language again in a formal situation except it is a course they were admitted to study or as a minor course. Interestingly, to have a very good command of English is very advantageous in many ways.  

From the social point of view, good knowledge of the target language is regarded as a sign of sophistication, good education, and even high intelligence. Highly fluent English speakers are able to express their thoughts and emotions with eloquence and precision which enable them to present themselves well (Schmiedtova, 2011). Mastery of the target language is not only desirable but it is also a prerequisite for social acceptance and professional success. Statistics also point out to the fact that approximately 85% of our success in life is directly attributed to our communication skill. Proficiency in English Language now determines success or failure in education and life in many parts of the world without the exception of Nigeria. Only those who have good grades and are competent in English are mostly employed in different places of work and departments in Nigeria these days. Olaseinde (1994) views English as the window of the world to Nigeria, making it possible for the nation to have free exchange of information with international community. Thus, this serves as a motivating factor for the present study to encourage English language learners develop interactive language skills that will enhance their communicative competence. It is also believed that fluency in the oral skill will help develop other language skills.

English as a target language forms the bridge across the ethnic boundaries which our various local and indigenous languages have created. Indeed, it serves as a vehicle of mutual understanding within a neutral environment of ethnic and linguistic plurality. Obviously, students need to function adequately well in English since it is the medium of instruction in the secondary school level. This is also very important because of the general outcry by many sources in the Nigerian educational system that the standards of both spoken and written English have fallen drastically. The situation is even more critical when one considers the unique role of English language as an official language of instruction which must be used at the secondary school level before passing internal and external examinations into the tertiary level and a language every student will need proficiency in for future career. These reasons thus served as a springboard for the present study.

Data from the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) also show that only about 23% of students who enter Nigerian universities have credit-Pass in English Language with very poor foundation from the secondary school. The yearly mass failure recorded by students in both WAEC and NECO examinations in the past six years have indeed continued to bewilder stake holders. In the last three years, the average success rate in the NECO, WAEC, and JAMB has not been encouraging, less than a quarter of students who sat for those examinations have credits in at least 5 subjects including English Language and Mathematics. What is worrisome is the percentage in the performance of students in English which has consistently been reducing. The implication is that over 70% of secondary school leavers are probably not capable of undergraduate education at their exit from secondary schools. The table below shows the percentage of candidates’ performance in the May/June Examination (SSCE) from 2010 to 2015 with five credits including English Language and Mathematics. 

The above analyses has however given the present study much concern because passing all subjects except English renders an external examination such as WAEC or NECO null and void. In fact, many courses in higher institution need more than a simple ‗pass‘ in English for admission. However, the study believes learners can use the target language proficiently in any given context if exposed to different communicative tasks.

  • Statement of the Problem

Learning of speaking skills have faced numerous challenges over the past years. These challenges range from mother tongue interference which results to poor pronunciation. This is prevalent because of the diverse language which exist in Nigeria. Furthermore, when the pronunciation is wrong, the intonation, stress and rhythm will also be wrong. Another problem is poor teacher qualification which hampers teaching and learning of speaking skills, this is couple with the fact that speaking skills is a technical and sensitive part of oral English.

Also, the education administrators do not encourage English language teachers to attend educational programmes such as conferences, workshops, seminars, and so on. The implication is that teachers will lack the knowledge and skills to improve their students’ speaking skills and other language skills. In a non-English speaking country like Nigeria, the situation necessitate a reconsideration of the teachers competence through the introduction and implementation of Communicative approach (CLT) which is an effective method of teaching and learning of English for the development of communicative competence in learners. Communicative language learning is expected to go beyond the era of the teacher dominance in the language learning process classroom thereby making the students passive listeners and at the same time making the lesson unenjoyable and boring. The major objective of Communicative approach is to improve teachers’ approaches, methodologies and techniques of teaching English Language for communicative competence.

The era of teaching English speaking skills through the old methods of Grammar-translation method or Audio Lingual method which are basically teacher-centered is long past. The study believes that proficiency in English can be attained through Communicative approach which is an eclectic approach to teaching of L2 learners of English. Communicative approach promotes interaction among students and between students and teachers through meaningful tasks. Speaking is the second of the four language skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is also one of the central elements of communication which needs to be developed for efficient reading and writing to take place. It is therefore an aspect that needs special attention and instruction.   

This study therefore intends to assess the effects of communication approach on SS II students’ learning of speaking skills in Jos South Local Government Area. This is indeed necessary because English Language is considered as a mandatory subject that all students must pass for validation of their senior certificate examinations in Nigeria.  

1.3. Purpose of the Study

            The main purpose of this study is to determine the effects of communication approach on SS II students’ learning of speaking skills in Jos South Local Government Area. Other specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. find out whether or not the application of Communicative approach in English Language teaching can help develop students’ use of intonation.
  2. determine whether the adoption of Communicative approach in the teaching of English as second language can improve students’ performance in stress.
  3. investigate whether the application of Communicative approach as an approach to effective language learning can have impact on learners’ performance in consonant sounds.
  4. determine whether or not Communicative approach as a method of teaching language can have effect on the students’ performance in vowel sounds.

1.4. Research Questions

This work is aimed at answering the following research questions:

  1. to what extent can the application of Communicative approach in English Language teaching help develop students’ use of intonation?
  2. To what extent can the adoption of Communicative approach in the teaching of English as second language improve students’ performance in stress?
  • To what extent can the application of Communicative approach as an approach to effective language learning influence learners’ performance in consonant sounds?
  1. To what extent can Communicative approach as a method of teaching language have effect on the students’ performance in vowel sounds?

1.5.Research Hypotheses

The following research hypotheses have been postulated to guide the study:

H01: There is a significant difference in performance of students who were taught speaking skills with Communicative approach and those who were taught without it in use of intonation.

H02: There is a significant difference in performance of students who were taught speaking skills with Communicative approach and those who were taught without it their performance in stress?

H03: There is a significant difference in performance of students who were taught speaking skills with Communicative approach and those who were taught without it in consonant sounds?

H04: There is a significant difference in performance of students who were taught speaking skills with Communicative approach and those who were taught without it in vowel sounds

1.6. Significance of the Study

This research work is very important because it is believed that it will be beneficial to education stakeholders which include teachers, students, government, curriculum planners and future researchers.

The study shall also attempt to naturalize the learning process in speaking skills. Students taught with this process will imbibe the habit of pronouncing how they were taught in the classroom – they will do this only during speaking skills lessons but in all aspects of academic life endeavours. The more students are engaged in Communicative approach, the more the development of their speaking skills. This is expected to reduce the dullness of the classroom during oral skills lessons, as learning would be more of interactive. Results from this study could help students to be able to effectively articulate, stress, observe rising and falling tones and enhance their speaking skills. The low ability learners could also benefit from the findings of this study as they find how to interact with high performance learners through the cooperative methods of teaching used in the study. This could also enhance the problem solving skills of students.

Teachers too could benefit from the findings in that they will make their classroom more learner-centered as against teacher-dominated activities during speaking skills lessons. The study will enhance the efficacy of their teaching of speaking skills using Communicative approach. It is hoped that the findings of this research would help to improve the teaching and learning of speaking skills using Communicative approaches in several ways. This can be achieved if textbook writers incorporate these methods into oral skills texts. Similarly, teacher trainers like universities and colleges of education would see the need to re-orientate teachers in training on the skills for successful implementation of Communicative approach.

In addition, textbook writers could equally benefit from the findings, in that group activity and activities in pairs could be incorporated into speaking skills classes in schools. Through the findings of this study, educators, federal and state ministries of education and other stakeholders would organize conferences and workshops for teachers where they can learn innovative techniques and methods for teaching speaking skills.

Furthermore, the study could be quiet significant to the secondary school English language curriculum developers and researchers in Communicative approach skills. The study would provide data on problems students encounter in speaking skills classes. Similarly, the findings in this research could be of immense benefit to policy makers and educational Administrators, as it will help to review our present educational policy and curriculum with the aim of introducing Communicative approach as one of the core component of teaching speaking skills in English language lessons.

Although vast literature exists within and outside Nigeria on Communicative approach, none or probably a few relates to speaking skills. Thus, this study could serve as reference source for researchers in the related aspects of English language teaching. 

1.7. Scope of the Study

The researcher is aware of other problem areas of teaching English as a second language, but for the purpose of this study, the study is limited to effects of Communicative approach on Senior Secondary School II students in learning of speaking skills in Pankshin Local Government Area.

Although there are four language skills in English language which include listening, speaking, reading and writing, the language skill that is the central focus of this study is speaking. The variables considered are components of speaking skills which include, intonation, stress, consonant sounds and vowel sounds.

Many researchers have attempted to use different methods or approaches in teaching speaking skills in the past. However, the present study will make use of the Communicative approach to teach speaking skills to SS II students.

The study is restricted to the Senior Secondary School level (SS2). This group comprises students in the semi-final year who will soon be preparing for their external examinations such as WAEC and NECO in which assessment shall be made on their speaking skills in English language. The assessment will hitherto qualify them for admission into the tertiary level of education. The research is limited to a sample of 100 students from two (2) public schools situated in within Jos South Local Government Area.

1.8  Definition of Terms

Effects – The change that one thing causes in a second thing

Interactive – Communication with each other in the classroom

Techniques – A Particular method of doing an activity usually a method that involves practical skills

Method – A Particular way of doing something

Control Group – The group that were not taught using interactive teaching techniques

Experimental Group – The group that were taught using interactive teaching techniques

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