Students' views on Web-based pronunciation training and face-to-face workshops for enhancing their English skills

Terri Leong Chan Pek Ha
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong SAR, China

This study investigates students' views on the pronunciation training they received for four months from February 2006, during which they worked on e-learning exercises via the Web-based Pronunciation Programme (WEPP) and also participated in a series of five face-to-face workshops. The data were collected by means of a questionnaire survey and interviews during and after the training.

The findings indicate that a majority of the participants considered both the WEPP website and the five workshops helpful, effective and satisfying. They also felt that the website and the materials provided an ideal e-learning platform and content to enhance pronunciation skills: most of them rated highly their experience of working with the Web-based pronunciation exercises and IPA lessons. As for the face-to-face workshops, most students enjoyed the interactive learning tasks and considered that creating their own poems increased their confidence in and passion for learning English. Interview comments confirmed the students' favourable opinions on the use of the illustrative sound-wave graphics to facilitate the training. The way to intertwine phonemic and prosodic elements in pronunciation training is an area for further research.

While recalling their experience in the five face-to-face workshops, most students enjoyed the card games and poem-reading exercises. Some commented that they had a strong sense of achievement when they saw the products of their poem-writing. Their perception of learning English poems changed after they started mastering phoneme sounds and understood how rhyming and alliteration effects worked in their poems. The techniques and skills taught in the face-to-face workshop also helped them considerably in creating their 'crazy' poems. Some of them commented that the teachers' suggestions and corrections of their poems helped them greatly. They also enjoyed listening to themselves reciting their own poems rather than simply reading aloud poems created by other people or suggested by the teacher.

They were excited when they found that their accents and flat tones could gradually be removed after they learned the skills of sentence chunking and started reading aloud poems and even stories they created themselves. More than half of the students said they now had a better appreciation of sounds and were more willing to speak up in public. They all considered that both the website and the workshops helped to enlarge their vocabulary for better expression.

The students also suggested a number of areas in which both the Web-based programme and the materials provided by teachers during the workshops could be improved. For example, they preferred interactive exercises to the repetitive drilling of sounds; and though the interactive components were what they enjoyed most, more guidelines and scaffolding templates were requested.