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Podcasting: An Effective Tool for Honing Language Students' Pronunciation?

Author(s): 
L. Ducate
L. Lomicka
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
University of South Carolina
Published: 
2009
Resource Type: 
Research
Number of Pages: 
21
Abstract: 

This resource addresses the effect of podcasting as a tool for improving intermediate language learners’ pronunciation skills. The researchers posed four research questions; three questions targeted whether using podcasting improved the learners’ pronunciation over the 16-week course, the fourth addressed whether the learners reported changes in attitude towards pronunciation or noted improvement in pronunciation.  

Twenty-two students in college-level German and French courses made five scripted and three extemporaneous podcasts during the course. They also completed the Pronunciation Attitude Inventory (PAI) (a pre- and post-survey measure) to chart changes in perspective regarding pronunciation. Professors graded the podcasts based on a rubric which considered: content, coherency, organization, pronunciation, fluency, accuracy, creativity, and impact on listener; native language speakers provided a written assessment.  Further analysis was provided by two native speaking judges.  They rated the podcasts based on a 5-point comprehensibility scale and a 5-point accentedness scale.  

The findings demonstrated that students’ pronunciation did not significantly improve, possibly, because there were no targeted in-class pronunciation exercises or due to the brevity of the course.  Nor were there significant findings regarding change of attitude on the PAI, however, students responded positively to the podcasts assignment. Researchers suggest that podcasts have potential as a teaching tool, as far as student response and the ability for teacher feedback, however, direct instruction of pronunciation is necessary to impact this aspect of language learning.

This resource provides a good review of the literature on teaching pronunciation and using technology in the second language classroom to facilitate improved pronunciation.  Furthermore, the authors conclude with practical suggestions to incorporate and support the use of podcasts when teaching a second language.

What the Experts Say: 

This study examines whether podcasting can improve foreign language students' pronunciation. It is easily adaptable for practitioners who teach English language learners and may be useful to ESL teachers in assisting leaners minimize their accents when speaking English.  It could be particularly important to instructors who are preparing their students for the workforce since heavily accented English is often a detriment to advancing at a workplace.  Furthermore, it is helpful for those using technology, specifically audio recordings to help students improve their pronunciation. The creative use of podcasts and blogs could be adapted to almost any type of adult education, but especially to ESL classes.

Of note is the article's introduction, providing an outstanding review of related theory and research. And, the impressive list of references provides a useful background on language learning. 

The results of the study were not as positive, in most areas, as expected. However, there are aspects that point to some promise as flaws in the study (as noted by the authors) that might explain these outcomes. While the quasi-experimental research study had too few subjects to take the results of the research seriously, the variables that were being measured in the extemporaneous speaking part of the study (see Appendix B:  content, coherency and organization, pronunciation and fluency, accuracy, creativity, and impact) provide important indicators of successful second language acquisition that could be useful to adult ESL educators. 

One drawback to the resource is that the literature review is not as well synthesized as it might have been. At times it was hard to follow the authors’ thought process because of the many citations. 

Methods the resource used to collect and
analyze the data for the research:

This quantitative study utilized scripted and extemporaneous student created podcasts which were rated (two raters) on a 5-point comprehensibility scale and a 5-point accentedness scale.  Student perceptions towards pronunciation were measured by the Pronunciation Attitude Inventory.  All data sets were analyzed utilizing a Wilcoxon Signed Ranks test.

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