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The research questions of the study
The study by Judith Olmsted Gary is concerned with an approach in teaching second languages that have been described by preceding research as profoundly effective. The approach is constituted by assessing the learners’ needs in terms of speaking: it is stated that they are in no need of speaking if they are not comfortable with it. The approach is dubbed “delayed oral practice” (Gary, 1976, p. 2). The author provides a rationale for this approach, argues for its efficiency as opposed to conventional audio-verbal practices, and advocates for further experiments that might adjust this approach for effective implementation. The question which the author deals with in her investigation is whether delayed oral practice and physical response positively affect children’s comprehension.
Description of the population investigated
The author asserts that no experimentation was conducted that would involve children in a delayed oral practice teaching mode. To support her point, the author investigates 50 lower elementary school children. All the participants had Spanish as their second language and were randomly allocated to be later distributed into the groups. At that, the experimental group was assigned to delayed oral practice for 14 weeks. Further, they were transitioned into a 7-week follow-up period of partially delayed practice.
Methods or research design used
To divide the subjects into groups, the random allocation method is used. The method ensures the absence of bias when distributing the participants. In her experimental study, the author uses a randomized control trial design which is believed to be a gold standard of experimental research. The participants were assigned intervention for a total period of 21 weeks.
The experimental group that was undergoing delayed oral practice were found to develop better comprehension skills than the rest of the control group. Considering that they were not speaking, the statistical group results were out of reach. Upon individual testing, however, the experimental group has shown better speaking capabilities. The more so, the control group has shown poor performance both in the mid-term tests and the final examination. At the same time, the experimental group’s results were on a steady increase.
Practical and pedagogical implications
Such an approach has been proved effective by some other studies. The possibilities of using it are plentiful. Delayed oral practice is sufficient in the adequate assessment of the learners’ needs and individualizing learning. For instance, the use of digital information sources can help the students set their own pace while being instructed. Given that they are not forced to speak instantaneously, they can play and replay the materials to ensure maximum understanding.
Response to the study
Albeit the date of publication, this study appears relevant to-date. Such an approach is useful, as the author has pointed out, with all age groups, and especially at the beginner’s stage. It can be assumed that the efficacy of delayed oral practice has to deal with logic. Indeed, drilling pronunciation at the very first stage can hardly be considered effective, given that the alternative is to give the learners the possibility to learn and comprehend without forcing an immediate response. As I recollect my own language learning experience, the forced responses in the language that was, as yet, unfamiliar were quite stressful. Thus, empirically speaking, the delayed practice method appears to be effective in terms of the learners’ psychology. The functional advantages of this method are not to be underestimated, although more precise assumptions would require more extensive reading.
Gary, J. O. (1976). Why Speak If You Don’t Need To? The Case for a Listening Approach to Beginning Foreign Language Learning. In Second Language Learning and Teaching: Proceedings of a conference held 16-18 July 1976 at SUNY, Oswego, New York (pp. 2-24). Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.