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A study on modification of english final sounds in connected speech – problems faced by the high school students and solutions

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST GRADUATE STUDIES
-----------------------

TRỊNH PHƢƠNG THẢO

A STUDY ON MODIFICATION OF ENGLISH
FINAL SOUNDS IN CONNECTED SPEECH – PROBLEMS FACED BY
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AND SOLUTIONS
(Nghiên cứu về sự biến thể của các âm cuối Tiếng Anh trong lời nói liên kết
– những vấn đề mà học sinh trung học phổ thông đối mặt
và cách giải quyết)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS
Field: English Teaching Methodology
Code: 60140111

HANOI – 2016



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST GRADUATE STUDIES
-----------------------

TRỊNH PHƢƠNG THẢO

A STUDY ON MODIFICATION OF ENGLISH
FINAL SOUNDS IN CONNECTED SPEECH – PROBLEMS FACED BY
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS AND SOLUTIONS
(Nghiên cứu về sự biến thể của các âm cuối Tiếng Anh trong lời nói liên kết
– những vấn đề mà học sinh trung học phổ thông đối mặt
và cách giải quyết)

M.A. MINOR PROGRAMME THESIS

Field: English Teaching Methodology
Code: 60140111
Supervisor: Dr. Dƣơng Thị Nụ

HANOI – 2016


DECLARATION
I, Trinh Phuong Thao, certify that this thesis is the result of my own research
and the substance of the research has not been submitted for degree to any other
university or institution.

Hanoi, 2016

Trịnh Phƣơng Thảo

i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

For the completion of this thesis, I have received great assistance and support
from many people without whom the work could not have been fulfilled
First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude and my


profound appreciation to my supervisor, Dr. Duong Thi Nu, from Vietnam National
University, Hanoi - University of Languages and International Studies for her
guidance, precious suggestions, invaluable critical feedback and encouragement in
the process of completing this thesis.
I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Huynh Anh Tuan, The
Head of Faculty of Post Graduate Studies and all his staff members who have been
of great help. My great thanks go to all the lecturers of Faculty of Post Graduate
Studies, University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam National
University, Hanoi for their interesting lectures and suggestions for the topic of my
study.
Thanks are also due to my students at grade 11 in Hermann Gmeiner High
School, Hai Phong for their assistance and cooperation in completing the
questionnaires.
Last but not least, I would like to give my deepest gratitude to my parents
and my friends for their moral support and encouragement throughout my training
course.
The

study

still

has

limitations,

therefore

recommendations would be warmly welcomed.

ii

all

the

suggestions

and


ABSTRACT

Connected speech is the area on which little research has been done and is not
taught in high school English education in Vietnam. Yet teaching connected speech
is essential for listening comprehension as well as pronunciation.
The researcher realized Vietnamese students deal with a lot of difficulties
caused by modification of final sounds in connected speech. Therefore, the purpose
of this study is to present an overview of connected speech, especially the
modification of final sounds such as linking, assimilation and elision, to find out the
problems in listening to connected speech and give some suggestion in teaching and
learning.
The study has been conducted in the area of listening skill. It focuses on the
attitudes towards the learning listening and the difficulties in teaching and learning
listening to connected speech of the students of grade 11 in Hermann Gmeiner High
School, Hai Phong.
It is hoped that this thesis will make contribution to solve some of the existing
problems of inadequate listening competence of the students in Hermann Gmeiner
High School.

iii


TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION ........................................................................................................ i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................................ii
ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................. iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS ......................................................................................... iv
LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS ........................................................................ vi
INTRODUCTION. ................................................................................................... 1
I. Rationale .................................................................................................................. 1
II. Aims of the study.................................................................................................... 2
III. Research questions ................................................................................................ 2
IV. Scope of the study ................................................................................................ 2
V. Significance ............................................................................................................ 3
VI. Methods of the study ............................................................................................ 3
VII. Design of the study .............................................................................................. 3
DEVELOPMENT ..................................................................................................... 4
CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................ 4
1.1. Definition of connected speech ............................................................................ 4
1.2. Aspects of modification final sounds in connected speech ................................. 5
1.2.1. Linking .............................................................................................................. 5
1.2.2. Assimilation ...................................................................................................... 7
1.2.3. Elision ............................................................................................................... 8
1.3. The connection between pronunciation and listening .......................................... 9
1.4. Connected speech and problems for listening comprehension .......................... 10
1.5. Some previous suggestions ................................................................................ 11
CHAPTER II: METHODOLOGY ........................................................................ 13
2.1. The context of the study ..................................................................................... 13
2.2. Subjects .............................................................................................................. 14
2.2.1. Teachers .......................................................................................................... 14
2.2.2. Students ........................................................................................................... 14
2.3. Instruments ......................................................................................................... 14

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2.3.1. Listening test ................................................................................................... 14
2.3.2. Questionnaires ................................................................................................. 15
2.3.3. Classroom observation .................................................................................... 16
2.4. Data collection procedures ................................................................................. 16
2.5. Data analysis ...................................................................................................... 16
CHAPTER III: RESULTS AND ANALYSIS ...................................................... 17
3.1. Results from the questionnaire for the teachers and the students ...................... 17
3.1.1. Teachers and students‟ attitude toward teaching and learning connected
speech. ....................................................................................................................... 17
3.1.2. Connected speech difficulties perceived by students ...................................... 20
3.1.3. Connected speech difficulties perceived by teachers ...................................... 22
3.1.4. The methods in teaching listening sounds in connected speech ..................... 23
3.2. Results from listening test .................................................................................. 24
3.3. Results from classroom observation .................................................................. 26
CHAPTER IV: DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATION ........................... 28
4.1. Discussion .......................................................................................................... 28
4.1.1. The problems that the grade 11-students at Hermann Gmeiner school may
face when listening to the modifications in connected speech. ................................ 28
4.1.2. The causes of these problems .......................................................................... 29
4.2. Recommendation............................................................................................... .31
4.2.1. To the teachers ................................................................................................ 31
4.2.2. To the students ................................................................................................ 36
CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................ 37
1. Recapitulation ....................................................................................................... 37
2. Limitations and recommendations for further study ............................................. 38
REFERENCES ........................................................................................................ 39
APPENDIXS………………………………………………………………………..I

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LIST OF TABLES AND CHARTS
List of tables
Table 1: The problems in listening to connected speech
Table 2: The reasons causing difficulties in listening to connected speech
Table 3: The major challenges in teaching listening to connected speech
Table 4: The activities and techniques in teaching connected speech

List of charts
Chart 1: The roles of teaching and learning modification in connected speech
Chart 2: The students‟ knowledge about connecting sounds
Chart 3: The frequency of teaching and being taught connecting sounds
Chart 4: The frequency of connected speech correction
Chart 5: The situation of practicing listening to connecting sounds
Chart 6: The students‟ percentage of correct answers in total
Chart 7: Students‟ wrong answers on each task

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INTRODUCTION
I.

Rationale

1.1. Theoretical rationale
In contemporary life, English is becoming more and more common as an
international language in many fields such as trade, education, media, science and
so on. English is a useful tool to get access to the world knowledge and success in
life. To many Vietnamese learners, learning English is very difficult because of
many differences between this language and Vietnamese. Pronunciation is
considered one of the biggest challenges because it may lead to misunderstandings
of listeners and sometimes bring unexpected effects or even communication
breakdown.
Speech in every language is defined by a large variety of pronunciation
features that work together to create its specific sound. English is usually described
as a very melodic, singsong language. It is characterized by a continuous rhythmic
stream of sound with frequent interaction between stressed and unstressed
syllables and sound adjustments at word boundaries. Although individual
sounds are important, when speaking English naturally, the sounds blend together,
some words flow together forming a continuous stream of speech. Final sounds are
joined with initial sounds of following words to produce connected speech. This is
essential for speaking English fluently and communicating efficiently, but this is
also a big problem for the learners, especially when listening to natural language.
1.2. Practical rationale
In high school English education in Vietnam, connected speech is not taught
systematically in any lessons of any English textbooks. However, the role of
connected speech is very important for not only pronunciation but also listening
comprehension. Unfortunately, in Vietnam, this feature seem to be rather neglected
by teachers of English and only advanced learners are capable of producing
good connected speech.
As an English teacher working at Hermann Gmeiner high school, the author
also sees the similar present situation of pronunciation teaching and listening

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teaching. The researcher finds many problems concerning connected speech that the
students face in listening. The students do not recognize words they know while
listening. Some learners identify the wrong words that they are listening to. The
modification of ending sounds in connected speech may be one of the main factors
preventing the learners from listening comprehension.
For all reasons above, I find it essential to choose this topic for study.
Hopefully, the research will find out the problems that the students face in listening
connected speech and recommend some strategies to help the students and teachers
at Hermann Gmeiner high school overcome the difficulties.
II. Aims of the study
The main aim of the study is to improve students‟ ability in listening English
with modification of ending sounds in connected speech.
The study is to achieve these objectives:
 Finding out the problems in connected speech that grade 11-students at
Herman Gmeiner high school may face in listening comprehension.
 Explaining the reasons of these problems and suggesting some solutions
III. Research questions
The above – mentioned objectives can be elaborated into the following
research questions:
 What are the problems about the modification of final sounds in connected
speech that grade 11-students at Hermann Gmeiner may face when listening?
 What are the causes of those problems?
IV. Scope of the study
The study is implemented among grade-11 students at Hermann Gmeiner high
school in Hai Phong. The author mainly focuses on studying some students‟ problems
in listening when they face the modification of ending sounds in connected speech and
suggests some solutions for them.
V. Significance
The result of the study will hopefully be of great significance in giving some
solutions and strategies to help high school students improve their speaking and

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listening skills as well as to deal with the modification of final sounds in connected
speech.
VI. Methods of the study
In order to accomplish this thesis scientifically and adequately, a survey
method of research will be carried out quantitatively and qualitatively.
Questionnaire, listening test and observation are methods used to collect data.
The questionnaire is given to students of two classes of grade 11 and all
teachers at Hermann Gmeiner school with the hope to find out the situation of
teaching and learning connected speech, the difficulties and causes in listening to
connected speech. The author also carries out observing some lessons to have
reliable responses about these situations. The listening test is conducted to identify
exactly the common connected speech mistakes that the students make when
listening.
Based on the results of the survey questionnaire, listening test and
observation, data analysis was done so as to put forwards some applications and
suggestions in order to improve teaching and learning connected speech in listening
comprehension.
VII. Design of the study
The thesis is structured in three main parts.
The first part is Introduction. It introduces the aims, the scope, and the significance
the methods and the design of the study.
The second part, Development, consists of four chapters.
Chapter 1 provides a review of the literature on the approaches to modification of
final sounds in connected speech, the influence of connected speech on listening
and some previous researchers about connected speech and listening.
Chapter 2 presents the research methodology and the instruments used to collect
data.
Chapter 3 presents the results of the study, along with the analysis of the data.
Chapter 4 presents the discussion as well as gives the recommendation for the
study.
The last part is Conclusion which summarizes the main issues of the whole study
and gives suggestions for further study.

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DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter provides readers with the theoretical background of the study by
introducing some key concepts necessary for the best understanding of this
research, as well as the review of previous studies related to the topic. It begins with
reviewing the concepts of connected speech, followed by aspects of modification final
sounds in connected speech. After that, this chapter shows the connection between
pronunciation and listening as well as the influence of connected speech on listening.
Finally, the chapter focuses on some previous suggestions for this problem.
1.1. Definition of connected speech
"Connected speech is more than just a string of individual target segments
joined together in series, since each segment is liable to influence the segments that
surround it. The precise form that these influences take is determined by the
particular language in question, and so the phonology of connected speech is part
of the phonology of the language that the child has to master . . .." (Martin,
2008:15)
In the book “A dictionary of linguistics & phonetics” (2008), the author
David Crystal also gives the definition of connected speech: “Connected speech,
or connected discourse, in linguistics, is a continuous sequence of sounds forming
utterances or conversations in spoken language. Analysis of connected speech
shows sounds changes affecting linguistic units traditionally described as phrases,
words, lexemes, morphemes, syllables, phonemes or phones”.(p135)
In another perspective, connected speech, also known as sandhi-variation,
reduced forms, etc., is the continuous chains in normal conversation, which includes
such phenomena as reduction, elision, assimilation, intrusion, juncture, linking, and
contraction. It is a combinatory articulatory phenomenon in which words are not
pronounced in isolation but run together.
There are many definitions about connected speech, but it is easy to
understand that connected speech is spoken language that is used in continuous
sequence, as in normal conversations. There is often a significant difference

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between the way words are pronounced in isolation and the way they are
pronounced in the context of connected speech.
1.2. Aspects of modification final sounds in connected speech
1.2.1. Linking
In connected speech, words within the same phrase or sentence often blend
together. Connecting groups of words together is referred to as linking. When words
are properly linked, there is a smooth transition from one word to the next. There
are some cases of linking: linking consonants to vowels, linking consonants to
consonant and linking vowels to vowels. (Avery & Ehrlich, 1992)
1.2.1.1. Linking consonants to vowels
When a word that ends with a consonant is followed by a word that begins
with a vowel, the consonant seems to become part of the following word. This is
especially true when the word beginning with a vowel is a function word.
For example:
Stop it /stɒ pɪt/

Run around /rʌ nəˈraʊnd/

Laugh about /lɑː fəˈbaʊt/

Match in / mɑː tʃɪn/

With it /wɪ ðɪt/
Back out / ˈbæ kaʊt/
1.2.1.2. Linking consonants to consonants
When a word that ends with a stop consonant is followed by a word that
begins with a consonant, the stop consonant is usually not released, that is, the
tongue or lips will move to the place of articulation of the stop consonant and then
move immediately to the place of articulation for the next consonant.
For example:
Stop trying / stɒp tʃaɪɪŋ /

Lap dog / læp dɒɡ /

Fat chance / fæt tʃɑːns /

Big zoo / bɪɡ zuː /

Bad judge / bæd dʒʌdʒ /

Let down /let daʊn /

Keep speaking / kiːp ˈspiːkɪŋ /

Deck shoes / dek ʃuːz /

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1.2.1.3. Linking vowels to vowels
Linking between vowels refers to a pronunciation change when a word,
which ends in a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel sound, and a
semi-vowel is used to join the two words or sounds. This modification allows the
speech to flow more smoothly, and produces continuous connected speech. (Avery
& Ehrlich, 1992)
There are three types of linking which join vowel – vowel combinations using
semi-vowels, namely linking /r/ and intrusive /r/, intrusive /j/ and intrusive /w/.
Linking /r/ and intrusive /r/
This is the most familiar case in linking. The phoneme /r/ does not occur in
syllable-final position in the BBC accent, but when a word‟s spelling suggests a
final „r‟, and a word beginning with a vowel follows, the usual pronunciation is to
pronounce with /r/. For example:
„here‟ /hɪə/ but „here are‟ /hɪər əː/
„for‟ /fɔː/ but for eggs /fɔːr egz/
BBC speakers often use /r/ to the similar way to link words ending with as
vowel, even when there is no “justification” from the spelling. This has been called
intrusive /r/, as in:
„media events‟ /miː.dɪər ɪvents /
„Australia and Africa‟ /ɒstreɪliər ən æfrɪkə /
Intrusive /j/
This type of linking occurs when the final sound of the first word ends in a
high front vowel. These are sounds which are produces with the highest part of the
tongue and close to the front of the mouth, namely /ɪ/ and diphthongs formed with
the short high front vowel /ɪ/, which are /aɪ/, /eɪ/ and /ɔɪ/. For example:
„my aunt‟ /maɪ jɑːnt /
„see you‟ ˈ/siː jəs /
Intrusive /w/
This type of linking occurs when the final sounds of the first word ends in a
high back vowel. These are sounds which are produced with the highest part of the
tongue, but close to the back of the mouth, and include /ʊ/ and diphthongs formed
with the short high back vowel /ʊ/, which are /əʊ/, /oʊ/ and /aʊ/. For example:
Go in / ɡəʊ wɪn /
1.2.2. Assimilation

Two others /tuː wʌðəz /

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Assimilation is the change of one sound into another sound because of the
influence of neighboring sounds.
According to Peter Roach (2000), the main differences between consonants
are of three types:
-

Differences in place of articulation

-

Differences in manner of articulation

-

Differences in voicing
Accordingly, it can be identified assimilation of place, of manner and of

voicing in consonants.
Assimilation of place is most clearly observable in some cases where a final
consonant with alveolar place of articulation is followed by an initial consonant
with a place of articulation that is not alveolar. For example:
Assimilation

Written form

Spoken form

/t/ -> /p/
/d/ -> /b/
/n/ -> /m/

Right place
He is a good boy.
I can believe it.

/ raɪp pleɪs /

/n/ -> /ŋ/
/t/ -> /k/

I can go.
White coat

/s/ -> / ʃ/

This shop

/hi iz ə ɡʊb bɔɪ /
/aɪ kəm bəli:v ət /
/aɪ kəŋ ɡəʊ /
waɪk kəʊt /
/ðɪʃ ʃɒp /

When the negative n‟t is attached to an auxiliary verb, the /t/ is often changed
to a short transitional sound at the same place of articulation as the following
consonant and the /n/ assimilates to this consonant. (Peter Avery ,1992).
Written form

Spoken form

Assimilation

I can‟t believe it.
I can‟t go

/aɪ kæmp bəli:v ət /

/nt/ -> /mp/
/nt/ -> / ŋk/

/aɪ kæŋk ɡəʊ

Palatalization is one of the most common types of assimilation. It is called
palatalization because the tooth ridge sounds /t/ and /d/ are pronounced further back
in the mouth, closer to the hard palate to become the sound /dʒ/ in the same place
as the sound /j/ is pronounced. It is also common for /s/ a n d / z / to be pronounced
as / ʃ / and / ʒ/ when they occur before a sound /j/. (Peter Roach, 2000).
For example:

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/ weə dɪdʒə ɡəʊ /

Where did you go?
This year
Would you mind?
Please yourself

/ ðɪʃiə /
/ wʊdʒə maɪnd /
/ pliː ʒə self /

Assimilation of manner is very rare, and is only found in the most rapid and
casual speech; general speaking, the tendency is for regressive assimilation and the
change in manner is most likely to be toward an “easier” consonant – one which
makes less obstruction to the airflow. It is thus possible to find cases where a final
plosive become a fricative or nasal. For example:
/ ðɪs ɪz ə ɡʊs sɒŋ /

This is a good song.
That night

/ ðən naɪt /

Assimilation of voice is also found, but only in a limited way. If the lenis
(voiced) consonant is preceded by the fortis (voiceless), we often find that the lenis
consonant has no voicing. This is not a very noticeable case of assimilation. For
example:
Have to / hæv tuː / -> / hæftuː /
I like that black dog / aɪ laɪk ðət blæk dɒɡ / -> / aɪ laɪg ðəd blæg dɒɡ /
Much more could be said about assimilation but, form the point of view of
learning or teaching English pronunciation, to do so would be useful. (Roach, 2000)
1.2.3. Elision
Elision is the leaving out of a sound or sounds in speech. According to Peter
Roach (2000), elision is typical of rapid, casual speech. Producing elisions is
something which foreign learners do not need to learn to do, but it is important for
them to be aware that when native speakers of English talk to each other, quite a
number of phonemes that foreigner might expect to hear are not actually
pronounced.
Following are some types of elision in connected speech.
 Avoidance of complex consonant clusters
It has been said that no normal English speaker would ever pronounce all the
consonants between the following two words: next spring /nekst sprɪŋ /. Normally,

8


the consonants in the middle /st/ are omitted. In clusters of three plosive or two
plosive plus a fricative, the middle plosive may disappear. For example:
Past president / pɑːs ‘prezɪdənt /
Left field /lef fiːld /
 Loss of final /v/ on „of‟ before consonants. For example:
Lots of them / lɒts ə ðəm /
Waste of money /weɪst ə vgmʌni /
It is difficult to know whether contractions of grammatical words should be
regarded as examples of elision or not. The fact that they are regularly represented
with special spelling forms makes them seem rather different from the above
examples. The best – known cases are:
- „had‟, „would‟: spelt „d , pronounced /d/ (after vowels), / əd/ (after
consonants).
- „is‟, „has‟: spelt ‟s, pronounced /s/ (after fortis consonants), /z/ (after lenis
consonants), except that after / sˌ zˌ ʃˌ ʒˌ tʃˌ dʒ / „is‟ is pronounced /iz/ and „has‟ is
pronounced / əz/ in contracted form.
- „have‟: spelt ‟ve, pronounced /v/ (after vowels), əv (after consonants)
- „not‟: spelt n‟t, pronounced /nt/ (after vowels), nt (after consonants)
- „are‟: spelt ‟re, pronounced /ə/ after vowels, usually with some change in the
preceding vowel, e.g. „you‟ /ju:/ - „you‟re‟ / juə/ or /jɔː/ ( Roach. P, 2000).
1.3. The connection between pronunciation and listening
Gilbert (2008) presents his ideas about the connection between pronunciation
and listening. To his views, pronunciation is an important aspect of both speaking
and listening and an understandable pronunciation is crucial to their communication
skills. Thus, teachers should integrate it with other areas of language work.
Moreover, he recommends that authentic unscripted recordings from the
cassettes can be used in an effective way which explores the recordings as natural
speech to raise the students‟ awareness of elements of connected speech and realize
the crucial relation between developing pronunciation and listening skills.
Murphy (1991) states that increasing numbers of ESL methodologists argue
that L2 pronunciation practice needs to be intimately linked with the listening
process.
According to Kelly (2003), teachers should consider the noticing process
which affects students‟ achievement of L2 pronunciation. When pronunciation

9


study and listening activities are combined, students will notice things about the
language and its use better. The concept of noticing is crucial in pronunciation
work. He has pointed out “Listening will continue to play a large part in
pronunciation training, with perhaps more authentic listening tasks with a variety of
accents.”
To sum up, listening and pronunciation have an interactive relation.
Listening supports much for pronunciation. However, pronunciation also causes a
lot of difficulties for listening, especially pronouncing sounds in connected speech
that is mentioned below.
1.4. Connected speech and problems for listening comprehension
Listening is a process affected by the character of the listener, the speaker,
the content of the message, and any visual support that accompanies the message
(Brown & Yule, 1983). Among many suggestions as to the causes of the difficulty
in understanding spoken English, the researchers seem to agree on the idea that
connected speech forms are the main cause. Goh (2000) and Chen (2002) claimed
that students do not recognize words they know while listening and Sun (2002)
made a similar suggestion that students cannot segment speech, and that makes
listening difficult. Ur (1984) claims that when a student learns a new word or an
expression, he usually learns its written and spoken form in its formal and slow
form ignoring how this word sounds when it is said quickly or in stressed manner in
a sentence. Underwood (1989) holds the idea that when encountered with speech
they have not heard before, students find that the sounds are lost as the speakers
focus on the message rather than the dictation. Students have difficulty in
connecting the sounds they hear with words they have seen and recognized in print
form.
Also, the influence of connected speech on listening has been investigated in
several studies. These studies show how reduced forms in connected speech can
interfere with listening comprehension. Henrichsen (1984) hypothesized that
reduced forms in listening input would decrease the saliency of the words and
therefore make comprehension more difficult for ESL learners. This hypothesis was

10


supported by results showing that both high and low level ESL learners scored
significantly lower on a test where the examinees had to write down the citation
form of the words in a sentence being said in reduced forms. Comprehending the
input with reduced forms, compared to when the sentences were fully enunciated,
was more difficult for both levels of students meaning that connected speech was
not easy to understand regardless of the level the students were in.
Ito (2006) further examined this issue using a dictation test by examining the
comprehension difficulty difference caused by two types of reduced form, the
lexical and the phonological forms. Her assumption was that „lexical reduced
forms‟ such as in the example “won‟t” exhibit more saliency and thus would be
more comprehensible compared to phonological forms such as in “he‟s” where
there is no drastic phonological change after the two words, “he” and “is”, form a
contraction. The results were similar to Henrichsen (1984) and showed that reduced
forms do interfere with listening comprehension. Just as she predicted, non-native
speakers scored significantly lower on the dictation test regarding the phonological
forms than the lexical forms indicating that different types of reduced forms did
distinctively affect comprehension.
1.5. Some previous suggestions
Considering the challenges students face while listening to English, students
should somehow be exposed to connected speech that is a part of the natural
language use. As Brown (2006) argues, students need to be able to adapt their styles
and registers in using language, and the ability to understand and use connected
speech is necessary for these adaptations. Based on the findings that reduced forms
in connected speech cause difficulties in listening comprehension, several studies
attempted to investigate the teachability and effectiveness of explicit instruction in
connected speech on listening. Brown and Hilferty (1986 & 2006) examined the
effectiveness of teaching reduced forms to 32 Chinese EFL graduate students. After
30 ten-minute mini-lessons on reduced forms, the group of 16 students who
received the instruction as opposed to the other 16 students who did general
pronunciation drills was found to have scored higher on two of the three measures

11


used (Integrative Grammar Test from Bowen, 1976, and a reduced form dictation
test) suggesting that teaching connected speech does facilitate listening
comprehension.
Matsuzawa (2006) did a similar experiment using a pretest-posttest design
with 20 Japanese business people to see if they would benefit from connected
speech instruction. The student‟s listening comprehension ability was measured by
a dictation test similar to the ones mentioned above, and subsequent to the
treatment, the posttest scores indicated that the students had made statistically
significant improvement.
Some researchers who are aware of the importance of teaching these forms
have a number of suggestions on how to teach connected speech. Some of their
ideas can be listed as follows:
- Using background knowledge and relating prior knowledge to the new
information contained in the spoken text. It is also important to pre-teach these
forms (Hasan, 2000).
- Singing rhyme and verse as a means of teaching problematic sounds. (Marks,
1999).
- Promoting practice through cloze tests and dictation is proposed.
Analyzing spoken discourse and activities which are meaningful, purposeful,
communicative and task-based.
- Giving dictation of sentences, repeating each sentence twice with relaxed or fast
pronunciation.
- Incorporating the reduced forms into exchanges with the students.
- Keeping listening journals as a homework assignment
- Using games and competitions and various types of cloze exercises, such as
songs, dialogues, news broadcasts and interviews. (Norris,1995)

12


CHAPTER II: METHODOLOGY
This chapter presents the context of the study, the subjects of the study and
the procedure of data collection.
The aim of the study, as stated in Chapter 1, is to find out how difficult the
students meet when listening to connected speech as well as analyze the reasons of
those problems and then give the solution. In order to search the mistakes that the
students make in listening to connected speech, the researchers ask the students to
do a listening test. Moreover, a questionnaire for the students and one for the
teachers are given to get information about the causes of the problems and the
solutions. Finally, to have more accurate evaluation from teachers and students, the
author obverses some listening lessons.
2.1. The context of the study
Hermann Gmeiner high school is a local private school located in the centre
of Hai Phong city. This is the only school in Hai Phong with three levels: primary,
secondary and high school. About high school, there are 12 classes for all three
grades, in which grade 11 has 4 classes. The number of students in each class
remains about 45-55 students. This school has enough rooms for 12 classes, but
only two rooms are equipped with a projector and two loudspeakers at the corner of
the room. There is only one cassette player that teachers can borrow to use for
listening lessons.
Hermann Gmeiner school always pays attention to improving the quality of
teaching and learning English. Beside the main course in the morning, the school
has private lessons in the afternoon with three subjects: English, Math and
Literature. The quality of the students is not good because the enrolled students are
not chosen through any examination. Because this is a private school, the
competition is higher than the others in the city, so the quality of the teacher is on
top priority, especially English teachers. Moreover, the school hired two foreign
teachers to help students communicate directly.

13


2.2. Subjects
2.2.1. Teachers
There are 10 English teaching staff that do the questionnaire: 8 Vietnamese
and 2 foreigners. The teachers for high school level consist of 3 males and 7
females whose ages range from 26 to 50 years old. All Vietnamese teachers who
hold B.A degrees from different universities in Vietnam have been teaching
English for over two years. At present, two teachers have M.A degree and one is
doing M.A course. Two foreigners who are working officially in Apollo English,
which is one of the most famous English centre in Vietnam. Both of them are
issued the teaching certificate and have more than one year experience.
2.2.2. Students
The questionnaire is circulated to 90 students from two classes 11A and
11B of Hermann Gmeiner high school that include 65 girls and 25 boys. After
that, 40 students chosen randomly will do the listening test. All the students have
been learning English since they were at primary school. Due to the recent
schedule, the informants attend five English periods every week, one of which is
taught by native speakers.
Most of the students do not consider English as their favorite subject and do
not pay attention to study it. 80% concentrate on three main subjects in entrance
examination such as Math, Physics, Chemistry. Only 20% choose English as a
main subject for going into university. The students are not interested in learning
English due to the fact that they find it difficult to learn and use English skills,
especially Listening, Speaking and Writing. Because English is one of the core
subjects, they only study Grammar to be able to pass the exam.
2.3. Instruments
Three research tools are used in this study: the questionnaires for students
and for teachers, the listening test for students and class observation.
2.3.1. Listening test
In order to make a judgment about the situation of listening words in
connected speech, a listening test is conducted among 40 randomly chosen

14


students from 90 students of two classes. The test is collected from the exercises
in the books or on Internet. Because it is difficult to collect audio files, the
researcher only write the documents, then a foreign teacher from America read
and record them in a CD to make this listening test. The test includes three tasks
that can show the problems relating modification of final sounds in connected
speech.
In the first task, the students listen to each sentence once and choose one
sentence they hear. This task includes 6 sentences using linking sounds in
connected speech. Sentence 1 and 2 contain the linking consonants to vowels
while sentence 3 includes the linking consonants to consonants and the others
aim at checking the students about linking vowels and vowels.
The second task is listening and selecting the word to complete the
sentences that assimilation appears. The students also listen once. The final task
is designed with an aim to check the student‟s knowledge about elision, so it
requires the students to listen twice and write a missing word in each blank.
2.3.2. Questionnaires
2.3.2.1. The questionnaire for the students
This questionnaire is used to elicit the students‟ general opinion in learning
about connected speech, the students‟ difficulties and causes as well as their
expectation from the teachers. The questionnaire including three main parts with
8 questions is delivered to 90 students. The first part aims at finding out the
students‟ perception and attitude toward English connected speech. The second
part focuses on the situation of teaching and learning the ending sounds in
connected speech and the difficulties in listening English connected speech. The
last one includes the reasons that cause these problems. All the questions are
written in Vietnamese to enable the students to understand and allow their full
expression of ideas.
2.3.2.2. The questionnaire for the teachers
This questionnaire of five questions designed in English is delivered to 10
teachers.

The first question aimed at getting the teachers‟ opinion about the

15


important role of teaching connected speech in general. In the next three questions,
the author wants the teachers to describe the reality of teaching and their attitudes
toward teaching final sounds in connected speech, the difficulties and unsolved
problems that they encounter. The last question is intended to find out some
strategies which can be applied in teaching listening connected speech.
2.3.3. Classroom observation
Observation as a technique relies on the things the author saw and heard,
and recording these observations rather than relying on subjects‟ self –report
responses to questions only. Observations in this research study mainly focus on
classroom instruction and learning activities. The researcher also focuses on
taking notes of equipment in the classroom and the challenges caused by
modification of final sounds in connected speech. The observation is carried out
in three five different lessons including two Speaking lessons and three Listening
lessons. The lessons are taught by three different teachers (two Vietnamese
teachers and one foreign teacher) at 3 classes 11A, 11B and 11C.
2.4. Data collection procedures
The first step of data collection is to distribute questionnaire to 90 students
to have a better understanding of the situation of learning pronouncing words in
connected speech. The second step is delivering the questionnaire to 10 native
and non-native teachers in order to get the problems in teaching pronunciation.
Third, the author chooses 40 students randomly do the listening test. Finally, the
author observes the lessons in three classes 11A, 11B and 11C.
2.5. Data analysis
Based on data collected from the survey questionnaire, the listening test and
the observation, the results will be analyzed and presented in order to answer the
research questions. The data obtained from the questionnaire and listening test is
analyzed quantitatively with percentage and number and qualitatively with three
themes as posted in the research questions. The data obtained from the
observation is analyzed qualitatively with the help of checklist cross tabulating
cases and themes to identify the listening problems caused by connected speech.

16


CHAPTER III: RESULTS AND ANALYSIS
3.1. Results from the questionnaire for the teachers and the students
3.1.1. Teachers and students’ attitude toward teaching and learning connected
speech.
The beginning part of the questionnaire focuses on finding all information
about teachers and students viewpoints in teaching and learning connecting sounds.
First, chart 1 describes the results provided by the answers to question 1 in the
questionnaire for teachers and students referring to the roles of teaching and
learning modification in connected speech perceived by teachers and students at
Hermann Gmeiner high school.
Question 1 (for students): How important is connecting sounds in a phrase or a
sentence?
Question 1 (for teachers) : How important do you think teaching modification in
connected speech is?
80%
70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%

Students
Teachers

Not important

Neutral

Important

Chart 1: The roles of teaching and learning modification in connected speech
As can you see from the chart, most of the students (61%) and the teachers
(70%) appreciate the important role of learning and teaching connecting sounds.
There are the equivalent proportion between students and teachers (28% -30%) that
are not aware of the vital role of connected speech. The teachers do not find
teaching modification in connected speech necessary and the students do not mind
it. Eventually, there are 11 % students that deny its importance.

17


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