Exploring Hong Kong University Students' Use of Pronunciation Learning Strategies (PLS)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)

Abstract

While the broad field of Language Learning Strategies (LLS) has attracted a considerable amount of interest in the past thirty years, research investigating Pronunciation Learning Strategies (PLS) has been somewhat limited. At a theoretical level, few studies have examined the underlying construct of PLS nor ascertain the possible correlation between PLS use and actual pronunciation performance; at a pedagogical level, the use of specific language tasks to engage learners in PLS use has also been scant. This exploratory study attempts to fill the existing knowledge gaps by investigating the use of pronunciation learning strategies among university students in Hong Kong. Phase I of the study explored the types and frequency of PLS used by full-time undergraduate students enrolling in a university in Hong Kong and any possible correlation between two primary variables, namely their strategy use frequency and pronunciation ability. 451 participants completed a pronunciation learning strategies questionnaire, among whom 190 participants further completed a pronunciation performance test comprising a read-aloud task and an extemporaneous speaking task conducted in a language laboratory. The survey data were subject to a factor analysis, which resulted in an 8-factor structure, with compensatory-heuristic strategies reported to be most frequently used followed by metacognitive-independent study strategies and sensory-mechanical drilling strategies. An inferential analysis initially suggests that there was a positive correlation between participants’ use of PLS and their pronunciation scores (r = 0.562, p < 0.001). Possible correlation between the two primary variables and a number of other secondary variables was explored through t-tests and Spearman’s rank order correlation coefficient: it was found that female students tended to use PLS more frequently and also delivered better pronunciation performance than their male counterparts; students who had received previous training on phonetics also showed higher frequency of PLS use and better pronunciation performance than those without; whereas students who studied in EMI schools performed better in the pronunciation test than those from CMI schools without showing significant difference in their PLS use frequencies. Also, the amount of time spent on out-of-class practices and the length of residence in English-speaking countries both showed positive correlations to pronunciation performance. Lastly, a regression statistical analysis examining the relative effects of these above primary and moderator variables on pronunciation performance further suggests that use frequency of functional practice strategies and communicative-interactive strategies as well as the medium of instruction in school remained the most significantly associated with pronunciation scores. Phase II of the study explored the effectiveness of introducing a digital storytelling (DST) project as a language task in two tertiary English language classrooms to engage students in PLS use. Another group of 33 undergraduate students from the same Hong Kong university enrolling in a 12-week English course were to complete a digital story as part of coursework. Data were collected through a post-course questionnaire, written reflection and follow-up semi-structured interviews to investigate students’ use of PLS throughout the one-month project period and factors affecting their strategy choice and use patterns. Results suggest that DST successfully engaged students in active use of a range of PLS. In particular, the format and specific components of DST were directly or indirectly conducive to the development of functional practice strategies, metacognitive-independent study strategies, sensory mechanical-drilling strategies and cognitive, formal rule-processing strategies among students. Observations about students’ engagement in peer support-social strategies and affective strategies were also discussed.
Date of Award29 Sep 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGuoxing Yu (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Pronunciation Learning Strategies
  • digital storytelling
  • Language Learning Strategies

Cite this

'