Spoken English in Primary Schools; the case of class six pupils in government school Muea- Buea
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This study seeks to assess the speech of pupils at the primary school level in order to know the causes of their errors. The research was carried out using descriptive and evaluative design. Observation and taking down notes was used in collecting data, listening to pupils speak in and out of class and developing a conversation with pupils and teachers. The results suggest that Pidgin English, LI and family background are partly responsible for errors committed.
We recommend that pupils at this level be given more opportunities to express themselves in English because pupils stand a better chance of not committing errors in spoken English if they reduce their rate of speaking pidgin English, and communicate more often in English.
GENERAL BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
This study is based on the spoken aspect of the English language at the primary school level. Language is defined by Edward Sapir as “a purely human and non- instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols”.
There are two main official languages in Cameroon namely English and French. English is an official language to the Anglophone speakers and French to the francophone. Taking this into consideration, an Anglophone without a good mastery of English grammar faces difficulties in terms of communication. This study focuses on phonetics and phonology.
Phonetics is the study of sound in general irrespective of the language. It studies the description of speech sound while phonology is the specific study of sounds in a particular language. The spoken skill in this study focuses on phonemes, prosody vocabulary and the grammar of the English language.
Phonemes are utterances produced by the organs of speech. They could either be vowels, consonants or semi-vowels while prosody in the English language is a spoken aspect whose features are supper imposed on units large that segments.
On the other hand, vocabulary can be seen as all the words that exist in a particular language or subject and also all the words are known and used by particular persons, while grammar makes rules for the combination of words into sentences and the forms of words.
Statement of the problem
There are various factors that influence the spoken aspect of the English language on pupils. Some of which are family background, mother tongue, lack of good reading materials, acquisition of pidgin English as the first language and lack of well-trained teachers. These factors could either have a positive or negative effect on the speech of learners.
The family background depends on the social status of a family. In wealthy families, Pidgin English is not accepted because it is considered a language for those of the lower class. Children from average or middle-class homes speak both Pidgin English and English.
In this situation, the children are exposed to both languages. Insufficient practice makes the acquisition of the spoken skills difficult for a child. A child who belongs to a higher income class hardly faces many problems because of this exposure at home.
Dialect or mother-tongue influences efficiency at the level of sound production. Some mother-tongues use a lot of a particular phoneme and the result is that in speaking English, that phone replaces others that were supposed to be the correct phonemes. Many mother tongues account for speech insufficiency in the domain of sound production.
Pidgin English is fast becoming the first language to most Cameroonians. The reason is that most children acquire it as their first language as they grow up. Moreover, teachers could also be responsible for the lack of speech fluency in pupils. The teacher may not have been well-trained and as a result, may not be efficient in helping pupils improve on their speech.
Objectives of the study
Writing is a presentation of speech making speech more important, therefore the spoken skill of the English language should be taken seriously into consideration in the education of the pupils. Given that there are various aspects or factors which influence a pupil’s speech and pronunciation, this work seeks to assess the speech of the pupils at the primary school level. This assessment is aimed at sorting out the cause of their errors for example:
Leave /li:v/ is pronounced as /lev/
Three /0ri:/ is pronounced as /tri:/
On the other hand, taking into consideration the fact that the pupils are in the final examination class of the primary school and will be getting in the secondary school, this work is to give them a foundation in their English language proficiency by encouraging spoken English lessons including some aspects of phonetics and phonology.
Speaking and writing are obviously two different things. Speech is the primary aspect of language and writing the secondary aspect. Therefore inefficiency in speech might affect writing. This work is intended to seek solution to some specific questions on spoken English of pupils which are;
- Do pupils use English in their speech? When? How often?
- What is responsible for the poor speech of pupils?
- What measures could be taken to help improve on pupils speech?
- What problems do pupils face when learning English?