AN EVALUATION OF DIFFICULTIES IN PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH SOUNDS BY SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

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AN EVALUATION OF DIFFICULTIES IN PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH SOUNDS BY SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

 

CHAPTER ONE/INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

This study is based on the area of phonology which deals with sounds and pronunciation. It is concerned with English pronunciation produced by some students of Junior Secondary Schools in Bauchi State.

There was great concern by the state government, English language teachers, some parents including examination bodies on the pronunciation problems by students of junior secondary school. Researches by scholars such as Jibril (1982), Banjo (1992), Jowitt (2005) and Abubakar (2008) have shown that there are a lot of linguistic changes in terms of pronunciation in Nigeria as a result of social factors especially contact with students from various linguistics background. Such as Hausa speakers substituting/p/for/f/ as in pat for fat. Jibril (1982), in particular, noted that contact is a factor that influences changes in pronunciation. Jibril also noted that change in the composition of teachers who teach student. According to him, teachers with receive pronunciation [RP]-like accent are fast disappearing.

From the foregoing, linguist generally believe that spoken language is superior to its written version. Wardhaugh (1974), observes that language is essentially speech. Consequently, in the linguistics literature there appear such statement as ―language is speech not writing‖, the spoken language is ―primary and the written language is ―secondary‖.

The spoken language is more basic and important skill than other language skills. Speech according to Lyons (1981) is made up of continuous burst of sounds. Sounds are the smallest stream of language which can be separately organized and distinguished by human beings therefore knowledge of English sounds is important.  For From kin and Rodman (1983) ―part of one‘s knowledge of a language is knowledge of the sound system -the phonology of that language‖. (From kin and Rodman 1986). In English language for instance,

/s/ may be a different sound from the representation of the letters s Thus: Cars a consonant is realized as / /

Quest realized as /S/ Pleasure realized as /δ /

The idea of this topic came about as a result of the personal experience of the researcher with a group of student with an existing problem of correct pronunciation of some English Sounds in our junior secondary schools, which affect their performances. Many students including those that study the English language as a discipline always consider it a difficult task to correctly articulate the forty-four speech sounds in the Received Pronunciation (RP) version of the English language. Many students in junior secondary schools both in rural and urban areas are mispronouncing some sounds example fiful instead of people.

Clark and Yallop (2007) stated that:

……in any language some differences in pronunciation are crucially distinctive. It is these distinctions or contrasts that are recognized by speakers of the   language   as   ―making   different   words‖   acknowledged   by   linguists   as systematically functional. (22)

Haycraft (1971) concluded that there are some people who, though knowledgeable in their disciplines, are highly limited in spoken English. Chukwuma and Otaburagu (1997). Owing to this fact, over the years, expressions are misinterpreted and decisions rendered ineffective as a result of the different varieties of the pronunciation given to different English sounds.

Consequently, students learning English language mis-conceive some sounds (phonemes) in other languages which were not in their own mother tongue. They hear a new sound in a new language and they wrongly substitute it with similar sound in their first language. When learners come in contact with a new sound, they will pronounce it as it is perceived to them substituting it with the most similar sound existing in their first language.

This substitution of phonetics from mother tongue to second language creates a lot of problems to the learners of English as a second language. According to: Sani MAZ(2000) Hausa speakers of English for example easily pronounce

/feifa/ instead of /paper/. A pen can be pronounced as a ―fen this is because the

 

/p/ sound is not existing in their mother tongue as well as the Hausa phonetics but  available  in  English  phonetics,  according  to  the  international phonetics

Association (IPA) 1988. Job (1992) is of the view that: an early study of the speech organs, the speech mechanism, the various sounds and their ways of articulations in English, can help students a lot in improving their pronunciation problems in the English sounds. As result of the contact between mother tongue and the target language (English language) an inter-language known as Nigerian English emerged. Uzoezie (1992), explained that: It is an accepted fact that when two or more language Come in contact there is usually mutual influence  at all Levels of languages, lexical, phonology and syntactic (pp12)

Statement of the Problem

This research assessed the English segmental pronunciation problems of students in junior secondary schools in Bauchi state.

In this research we assessed student‘s role in the pronunciation of English sound. There are same consonant and vowel phonemes of English Language which have no counterparts, example Hausa, Yoruba Fulfulde and Igbo. As a result of this absence, we find various speakers articulating the phonemes differently from the RP ―Received Pronunciation English‖ (2012).

Many researchers discovered that oral English, particularly aspect of pronunciation is totally neglected, due to lack of qualified teachers. Indeed, Chairman state universal basic education board(SUBEB) in His opening speech at the 2014 training of teachers on core subjects, stated that pronunciation problems by students are rampant and lamentable scenario among teachers and students in our JSS III level in Bauchi State.

In the Nigerian academic circle, there has been outcry from the school West African Examination council [WAEC], Senior School Certificate Examination [SSCE], National Examination Council [NECO] and Others that there were massive Examination failures especially in English Papers across the country and oral English section suffers the most. This may be attributed to the difficulty of pronunciation of some English segmental sounds. Example, the student‘s first language is coming in contact with English as a second language. Therefore if students want to communicate in English language they tend to transfer certain peculiarities of their mother tongue into English.

The curriculum content of English Language for Nigeria‘s secondary schools introduced in the 1980s gave a fresh emphasis to developing sounds in the spoken English. Teachers found it difficult to teach, partly because they were not sure that their speech reflected the pronunciation norms of (RP) which they were supposed to teach. Pupils and teachers therefore tends to ignore the oral English sections of the course books. Deprived of consistently reliable guidance from teachers, pupils unconsciously relied on (mother tongue) MT models, as indeed many of their teachers did; and assuming that there was a perfect correspondence between sound and spelling, they used orthography as their guide to pronunciation. Moreover, this could be due to other reasons such as: the teacher factor, phonology facilities, mother tongue interference or lack of practice.

The aim of the study

The aim of the study is to assess the English pronunciation problems by some students in junior secondary schools in Bauchi state who cannot get access to the correct and standard form of pronunciation.

Objectives of the Study

The work specifically intend to:

  1. Assess the extent of the pronunciation problems faced by junior secondary school students learning English sounds in urban and rural Junior secondary schools in Bauchi
  2. Assess vowels production problems faced by students of junior secondary schools(iii) in urban and rural areas of Bauchi
  3. Assess consonants production problems faced by students of junior secondary schools in urban and rural areas of Bauchi
  4. To identify the effect of pronunciation on word

Research Questions

In view of the above set objectives, the study raises the following research questions:

  1. Is there pronunciation problem of English sounds among the junior secondary schools [JSS3] students in rural and urban areas in Bauchi state?
  2. To what extent does student pronunciation determine the realization of consonant sounds?
  3. How does student pronunciation determine the realization of vowel sounds?
  4. Do students  in  urban and  rural  schools differ   in  their  mode of pronouncing English sounds in Bauchi State?
  5. What is the effect of pronunciation on word stress?

Significance of the Study

This study which focuses on the English pronunciation problems in junior secondary schools in rural and urban schools in Bauchi state, is expected to give some input on how to help English teachers, teaching pronunciation in Junior Secondary Schools with the ways and methods of handling pronunciation problems. The research would no doubt, be of academic interest to students who see language in its dynamic form. More importantly it looks at the gap in the area of teaching the consonants and vowels sounds in junior secondary school. The study also has the potential of raising the consciousness of teachers and those who are interested in the area of phonemes in particular and English language in general by providing possible suggestions for improvement.

This study will explore the weakness of students and learners of English in pronunciation and suggest some possible ways by which they could be handled. It could offer learners with a number of ways that could help them to improve their spoken English. The findings of this study could be useful to students of English in junior secondary schools in Bauchi state. These students of junior secondary schools may have the aspiration to become conscious of the deficiencies in their articulating abilities. The researcher tried to assessed their pronunciation deficiencies and suggest possible pedagogical methods to correct them. Through the research findings, curriculum planners could competently adopt the scope of phonetics and phonology as taught in different Junior Secondary Schools in Bauchi state.

Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study is aimed at assessing the pronunciation problems of some English sounds faced by students in junior secondary schools. The research will cover the two educational zones in Bauchi state, five Junior Secondary School from each zone which comprises of rural and urban areas. The choice of Bauchi State is based on the fact that it is regarded as a Hausa speaking state. This research covered only some sounds of English. The areas of concentration in the analysis therefore, are assessment of selected English phonemes.