A Socio-cognitive Approach to Developing Oral Fluency and Naturalness in Iranian EFL Learners

Farahman Farrokhi, Asgar Mahmoudi

Abstract


Learning spoken English in situations like Iran that do not support adequate and rich exposure results in English which is slow-paced and reduced regarding all aspects. The purpose of this study was to explore the ways by which these two problems can be accounted for to some extent. The theoretical bases upon which the study was founded were sociocultural and cognitive approaches to language learning. Sociocultural theorists emphasize learners’ involvement in social activities and believe that it is enough for learning a language. Cognitive theorists, on the other hand, emphasize the role of memory and the rote learning of instances of language. Adopting an integrative approach, this study employed interaction and rote learning activities in the experimental classes as its independent variables and measured their effects on students’ fluency and naturalness, which were the dependent variables of the study. While fluency was defined as the speed of speech and gauged mostly by aggregating the number of syllables produced in the unit of time and the syllable number/phonation time ratio multiplied by one hundred minus the negative values assigned to pauses, naturalness was defined as fluency plus formulaicity. Formulaicity scores were measured by assigning forty points to each formulaic expression produced by participants. Findings from integrated interaction and rote learning activities in the experimental classes were compared with findings from the control class in addition to being compared with each other. The performances of participants in the experimental classes were compared with each other because the rote-learned materials were offered to them in different formats. One of the experimental classes received decontextualized formulas with their meanings in Persian while the other class received contextualized formulas without meanings. Students in the control class were required to reproduce oral texts of short movies in lieu of memorizing formulas. Findings from the study revealed that while interaction alone is enough for developing fluency, it is not enough for developing naturalness. The experimental class receiving decontextualized formulas with meanings outperformed the other two classes in developing naturalness. The ultimate conclusions reached were of two types. First, getting involved in interaction is sufficient for developing fluency, because there was no significant difference among groups with regard to this variable, but it is not enough for developing high levels of naturalness. Second, to reach acceptable levels of naturalness, participants need to memorize formulas whose meanings are provided for them.    

 


Keywords


Idiom/formula, Fluency, Naturalness, Pause

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.3n.2p.1

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