Teaching and learning English pronunciation in Cyprus: survey, analysis and challenges
PublisherUniversity of Cyprus, Faculty of Humanities
Place of publicationCyprus
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The current study investigates the teaching and learning of pronunciation in Cyprus and the difficulties that Greek Cypriot bilectal high school students experience in the pronunciation of English vowels. The aims of the study are twofold: (i) to highlight any particular difficulties that GC bilectal learners face, whose first language is Cypriot Greek (acquired in natural environment conditions) and who are learning English as a foreign language under formal learning conditions (classroom setting, public education and supplementary private EFL tuition) due to their linguistic experience, and (ii) to investigate current policies, textbooks and curricula in public education (primary and secondary levels) in order to identify possible challenges and shed light on how pronunciation is approached in Cyprus in relation to vowels. In order to answer the research questions and test the hypotheses of the study, two studies were designed: A study investigating vowel errors (Study I) and a study investigating policies, curricula and textbooks (Study II). The first study aimed at investigating L2 vowel errors of GC high school leavers to test what are the specific pronunciation problems that GC speakers face in terms of vowels. For this study, two instruments were employed: a reading passage (participants were asked to read a passage in English, which was later analyzed in terms of vowel errors that they had produced) and a questionnaire. The second study aimed at investigating if and how the pronunciation of English is approached and taught in Cyprus public primary and secondary Education, in an attempt to find ways in which textbooks, curricula and foreign language educational policies can better support pronunciation teaching-learning processes in public schools, focusing on the actual difficulties that GC learners face (based on the results of Study I). The following instruments were used for this study: (i) Interviews were conducted with the inspectorates of public primary and secondary education at the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus, and (ii) curricula and textbooks used at public primary and secondary schools in Cyprus were collected and analyzed in terms of pronunciation and more specifically the pronunciation of vowels. Results stemming from the two studies verified the hypotheses of the study and showed that (i) Greek Cypriot learners encounter specific difficulties with the pronunciation of English vowels (H1), especially with the pronunciation of the schwa and vowel reduction, and (ii) these specific vowel difficulties are not addressed in formal EFL curricula, textbooks, Ministry guidelines and teacher training in the public education system of Cyprus. Pronunciation is neglected and has a marginal role in curricula, textbooks and policies. Ways in which textbooks, textbook writers, curricula and policy stakeholders like the Ministry of Education can better support pronunciation teaching-learning processes in public schools are suggested, focusing on the actual difficulties that GC learners face. Issues of L1 transfer, the differences between the L1 and L2 vowel systems, choice of instructional approach, curriculum design and lack of awareness and pronunciation training are discussed in relation to the results of the vowel study.