The Effect of Feedback in Teaching Thai as a Foreign Language

The Effect of Feedback in Teaching Thai as a Foreign Language

Maliwan Buranapatana (Khon Kaen University, Thailand) and Felicia Zhang (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-065-1.ch003
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Abstract

This chapter aims to explore the effect of providing multiple sources of feedback through a language teaching approach called the Somatically-enhanced Approach (SEA) (Zhang, 2006) in the teaching of Thai language to foreigners. Teaching innovations include: the use of relaxation techniques to relax students; the use of humming, clapping, mouthing, and physical gestures to emphasize the rhythm of the Thai language; the use of a Speech comparison tool (Sptool) for providing biofeedback; and the provision of all learning materials on CDs. Two groups of students were involved in the study. An experimental group (EG) consisted of 24 international students who enrolled in the Thai Language for Foreigners course at Khon Kaen University, Thailand. These students came from People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, and Laos. They were taught using SEA. The control group (CG) consisted of 22 Chinese students who studied Thai language at Guangxi University for Nationalities, China, taught with the traditional method. The results of this study revealed that after 24 face-to-face contact hours over 8 weeks, international students who undertook a course in SEA spoke more fluently than the control group who studied Thai for 44 hours over 11 weeks. The differences in the quality and quantity of speech were statistically significant. The results of the study, both quantitative and qualitative, will be reported. The improved gains in students’ performance in EG can be attributed to the multiple sources of feedback afforded by SEA.
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Theoretical Underpinning Of The Study

What happens to a beginner’s perceptual system when one first starts to learn a foreign language? In the context of learning a foreign language, a person with normal hearing in his/her mother tongue will behave as though he/she were hard of hearing (Lian, 1980). Acoustically, each language sound carries all frequencies from about 50 Hz to about 16,000 Hz (albeit at various intensities). Theoretically, at any rate, each sound can be heard in many different ways. The ear seems to have a 'choice' as to what to hear in practice depending on the way the ear has been trained. L2 students tend to make 'choices' in the target language based on what they are familiar with in their mother tongue. Trubetzkoy (1939) refers to this as the mother tongue 'sieve'. For instance, a vowel is physically made up of a complex set of many frequencies produced simultaneously. When a vowel is heard, everything it contains is heard. However, when listening to a sound, it is not necessary to catch all the elements in order to recognize it as recognition only requires some of the sound spectrum. Each sound has a particular 'optimal' frequency (i.e. the frequency band, or combination of frequency bands) at which a native-speaker best recognizes and perceives the sound in question according to their mother tongue. Students who experience difficulty with a particular foreign language sound are considered as not having recognized (i.e. perceive) its optimum. Thus, they are unlikely to be able to reproduce the sound correctly.

If, for example, the sound [i] in French is recorded and listened to successively through octave filters:

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