Linguistically structured teaching of Spanish phonology : its facilitation of Spanish-language learning
Randall, Mary L.
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The purpose of this study was to construct a rationale for phonologically based Spanish-language instruction. A questionnaire was designed to elicit the opinion of a targeted group of teachers regarding the effectiveness of a linguistic orientation to teaching and learning Spanish. It assessed both the respondents' own language education and their present-day teaching regarding the extent of inclusion of a phonological component. The population of the study consisted of 40 individuals teaching Spanish in the Naperville and Elgin public school districts at the middle-school and high-school levels, or serving as teaching assistants at Northern Illinois University during the 1991-1992 academic year. Twenty-five respondents, representing approximately 63% of the total population, completed the survey. Results of the survey questionnaire support the conten tion that a linguistic orientation to language acquisition facilitates Spanish-language learning. Despite reporting that their own language learning had been shaped primarily by pronunciation modeling, 100% of the respondents agreed that sound-system training is important, 88% reported textbook inclusion of this aspect, and 72% supplemented the text with teacher-made materials. The respondents strongly agreed that linguistically structured teaching facilitates overall language acquisition, and the individual language skills of listening, spelling/writing, and speaking. Supported to a lesser degree were the facilitation of reading, independence of learning, and memory. Support for a phonological orientation exists in the literature, particularly dating back to the audio-lingual era, and increasingly now with the development of proficiency-based instruction. However, there are few empirical studies to substantiate its efficacy. Recommendations for further study include an experiment to measure any qualitative differences between students' achievement levels after linguistic training as contrasted to achievement levels without such training. Although 64% of the respondents taught with just an undergraduate preparation, fewer than 50% of them reported an exposure to phonetic/phonemic concepts at that level. Thus, most support the inclusion of a phonological component and report utilizing it to varying degrees in their classrooms; yet many have not had the benefit of formal phonological training themselves. This would suggest the need for an increased emphasis on linguistic training at the undergraduate level in preparation for classroom teaching.