(A research-based paper built on a presentation paper originally; by one NEB; left as such)
Learning a foreign language, in this case English, is learning to use it. But in the case of Indonesia where English serves only as a foreign language as above-mentioned, it seems not always possible. To make things worse, at the school-level where the language is learned, its teaching and learning has always put English as a subject rather than a skill. It is learned as parts, not as a whole (Goodman 1986; 8). As a result, it produces learners who know more about the language than they use it to express themselves.
It is a good thing that there are now available English courses that can bridge the gap. Learners can learn to express themselves in the language more there than they do at school. They can speak things, describe people and things, tell stories, sing songs, conduct discussions, deliver speeches and presentations, have debates, etc. But the problem does not end here. Other problems occur. Learning twice a week does not necessarily promise the learners much of a chance to use the language, given still the fact that classes may still be big in size, the number being up to 25 per class. It is therefore not enough for the listeners to depend on the courses to provide them with more chance to speak English.
Given the fact that English is only a foreign language and therefore the environment is not very conducive for language exposure and practice, it takes the learners themselves more to practice the language than it does their environment. And as a large proportion of language learning goes on outside of the classroom and is therefore not subject to the teacher’s intervention (Horwitz 1983), good learners will find their own way, making their own opportunities for practice in using the language… outside the classroom, and therefore taking charge of their own learning (Rubin and Thompson 1982). In the words of Brown (1992; 6) “you can-and must-take control of your own language learning and assume responsibility for your success…”
Learners can, independently, devise any possible way they can always access to get used to using the language, making it eventually a skill, that is, a learned and practiced skill. And as, according to John Dewey, one learns best by “doing”, by active experimentation, proposed here is what’s called self-recording (Antoni 1999). Mendez (2010) doesn’t explicitly name it so, but suggests the same idea. Originally meant as a presentation paper, modified further to be a research-based paper, this seeks to reveal:
1. what self-recording is;
2. what it does;
3. to what extent it is feasible, and therefore recommendable.
Review of Related Literature
It is believed that learning is best and most effective when learners learn from their own mistakes and odds that they realize and later fix by themselves. Self-recording enables language learners to do just this. They will find out how they actually speak and their own mistakes. Karen Price (in Rivers 1987: 161) states this by saying “a natural extension of the widespread use of tape recording to let students hear their own performance… is an effective way for students to obtain immediate feedback on their non-verbal as well as verbal behavior.”
By knowing the way they sound, the way they speak, and the mistakes they make, learners will better know where to go with their learning. One thing that is certain is that they will be motivated to improve given the right reason for doing so. Learning at their own pace, learners will train to perform different functions of speaking such as narrating, explaining, describing, etc. If they manage to do this on a regular basis, they should be able to perform better and better in the long run over a period of time. It is this way that learners “take charge of their own learning.” Completely, the motto goes “take control of your own learning and assume responsibility for your success…” independent of the teacher and his “intervention.” This gives way to self-recording constituting what Brown (1991: 6) terms as “home study program”, which is “something that supplements other experiences. It can act… as an additional set of materials along with a regular language class.”
Unlike Horwitz, who contends that learners’ learning that goes on outside of the classroom is not anymore subject to the teacher’s intervention, others still believe that the teacher can still play his role in that he can still help learners correct their mistakes and comment on their performances anytime they need. Borrowing terms by Voller (1997 cited by Aoki in Arnold (ed.) 1999: 147), this can be done over “one-to-one situations” with the teacher serving as a “counselor” giving both psycho-social support caring and motivating learners as well as raising their awareness, and technical support helping learners to carry out their learning, and to evaluate themselves. Specifically, Brown and Yule (1983: 105) states “if the student records a number of performances on the same tape over a period of weeks and months, the teacher can check over those performances and gain an impression of whether the student has improved or not. He can, moreover, illustrate any improvement… to the student himself.”
Dwelling on the above explanation, self-recording in this research is taken to mean learners’ recording their voice talking about something of their choice: English-course topic, school-subject topic, feeling about something, etc. They can tell about, narrate, describe, explain, argue, or give a speech on that something for as long as they can and want. Then they listen to it, paying attention to their language, intonation, tone, pronunciation, etc. They jot down odds and mistakes they made. Then they have a one-to-one conference with their teacher. Together they check the recording again for more mistakes the learners missed to note. After that the learners record that again, this time making it better correcting all they have made wrong. Then they listen to the recording again. It goes on like this following the cycle, until they think it is perfect, so perfect they want to talk about something else now.
This research involves one subject randomly taken from my Basic 3 class of term 4 (Oct.-Dec. 2002) scheduled Mon-Wed/1500-1700/206. She is a girl named Siti Amidah, aged 14. She is in the 8th grade (second year of junior high school).
There are two pieces of instrument used in this research. The first one is a blank tape or cassette to be used by the respondent to record herself. The second one is an interview, the questions of which have been prepared beforehand. For example, “how do you feel recording yourself talking about something?”
The respondent is given the tape or cassette and is asked to record herself talking about any topic she finds most interesting to talk about from her Basic 3 book. After she records herself, the respondent is asked to listen to the tape and write down all her utterances on a piece of paper. Then she is to underline any word or expression she thinks to be wrong. At an agreed-upon time, she is to see the researcher (myself) bringing with her the tape and the piece of paper containing the utterances. The researcher asks the respondent why she thinks the underlined words r expressions are wrong. Also, together the respondent and the researcher check the piece and recording again for possible more mistakes the respondent may have missed. In addition to this, the researcher may comment on other necessary aspects such as elaboration. When this is done, the respondent is to record herself again (at home) talking about the same thing, this time correcting all the mistakes she has made that she has herself identified, and that she and the researcher have identified together. Like in the first recording, she is still now to jot down all her utterances and underline any word or expression she still finds awkward. At a second designated time, the respondent is to see the researcher again bringing the tape and the piece containing the utterances. Next, the same procedure recurs. This may take place until 3rd attempt when the respondent is believed to already perform better.
After all the recordings are finished, the respondent is interviewed. The questions are:
a. How do you feel when you record yourself talking about something (possibly for the first time)?
b. What do you think are the advantages of self-recording now that you’ve recorded yourself?
c. Would you recommend self-recording to your friends? Why?
d. What do you think are problems with self-recording?
e. Do you have any suggestion concerning self-recording?
When the researcher finds it necessary to switch to Bahasa Indonesia for better comprehension of the questions, he does.
Data Analysis and Discussion
The respondent chooses to talk about a topic titled my pluses and minuses. The utterances from her first recording along with those she underlines that suggest mistakes are:
Mr. Ferry, my name is Siti Amidah, but you can call me Mia. In this cassette I want to talk about my pluses and minuses. For the first I want to talk about my pluses. My pluses are: I can swim, I can make fried rice, I can sing, I can make my thumb touch my arm, I can move my ear, I can drive bicycle, I can playing tennis, I can playing badminton. And my minuses are: I cannot sprint, I cannot make soup, I cannot dance, I cannot play with my tongue, I cannot play with my eyeball, I cannot drive motorcycle, I cannot playing volleyball, I cannot drive a car, and I cannot playing guitar. OK, thank you for your attention and bye-bye.
It is the verb play that the respondent underlines. The researcher asks why then she does not underline the verb swim, make, sing, etc. all following the modal can too. In no time does the respondent realize that she should’ve underlined the verb playing after the modal can, instead. Now she remembers that the modal can is followed by infinitives without to. The researcher next points at the expression drive bicycle and asks if it is appropriate. The researcher gives a clue to the word saying it begins with an r. The respondent says “ride”. The researcher continues to point at the expression for the first and asks if it is the correct expression to mean pertama-tama or it should be first. The respondent says “first”. The researcher then adds that the respondent may want to elaborate on whichever plus or minus the respondent talks about. For example, I can swim because I practice everyday at the pool near my house, etc.
In her second attempt, the respondent produces an elaborate version of her first recording. In full, the utterances are as follows:
Hi, Mr. Ferry. My name is Siti Amidah, but you can call me Mia. In this cassette I want to talk about my pluses and minuses. For the first I want to talk about my pluses. My pluses are: I can swim because that is my hobby. And for the first I can swim when I in grade three when I elementary school. I can make fried rice because when I’m alone in my home and I’m hungry I make fried rice and that’s delicious. So I think I can make fried rice. I can sing but I think my voice is not good enough but I must confidence with myself. I can make my thumb touch my arm because I think I have a bent thumb. So I can make my thumb touch my arms. I can move my ear. That very easy I think. I can drive bicycle. When I’m in elementary school, my father teaches me. I can play tennis because tennis is my hobby and my father support me about that. I can play badminton because my younger sister is an athlete and I always practice badminton of her, and my father is a coach of badminton so he supports me. I think that’s enough for my pluses. My minuses are: I cannot sprint because every I’m sprint my knee always sick. I cannot make soup because first I don’t like vegetable and I never want to know how to make soup? I cannot dance because I don’t like dance. I cannot play with my tongue and I don’t know why? I cannot play with my eyeball because I’m afraid my eyeball will be squinting, I cannot drive motorcycle because I don’t have the motorcycle. I cannot play volleyball because I’m afraid with the ball, the ball very fast and what happen if the ball touched my face that’s very screamed. I cannot play guitar because I don’t understand the key of the guitar.
As can be seen, the respondent elaborates on every plus and minus she has, making the recording longer. However, she forgets to apply some correction agreed in the first conference such as first, ride bicycle. When reminded, the respondent quickly remembers. The discussion continues with the researcher asking why the respondent chooses to underline the words or expressions. In the expression I in the grade three when I elementary school, the respondent thinks that she must’ve missed some to be’s. The researcher tells her that it should also be in past tense as it refers to an activity in the past. The discussion goes on with other underlined words or expressions. Whenever necessary the researcher also points out at other mistakes the respondents may have missed. He also reminds the respondent of the words or expressions discussed in the first conference she forgets to apply in the second recording that she has to use in the third recording.
In her third attempt, the respondent produces a recording applying virtually all the correction. The full script is:
Hi, Mr. Ferry. My name is Siti AMidah but you can call me Mia. In this cassette I want to talk about my pluses and minuses. First I want to talk about my pluses. My pluses are: I can swim because that is my hobby. And the first time I could swim was when I was in the third grade of elementary school. I can make fried rice because when I’m alone in my home and I’m hungry I make fried rice and that’s delicious so I think I can make fried rice. I can sing but I think my voice is not good enough but I must be confident of myself. I can make my thumb touch my arms because I think I have a bent thumb. So I can make my thumb touch my arms. I can move my ear that’s very easy I think. I can ride bicycle, when I was in elementary school my father taught me. I can play tennis, because tennis is my hobby and my father supports me. I can play badminton because my younger sister is an athlete and sometimes I practice badminton with her and my father is a badminton coach so he supports me. I think that’s enough for my pluses. My minuses are: I cannot sprint because every time I sprint my knee always hurts, I cannot make soup because first I don’t like vegetables and I never want to know how to make soup? I cannot dance because I don’t like dancing. I cannot play with my tongue and I don’t know why? I cannot play with my eyeball because I’m afraid my eyeball will be squinting. I cannot ride motorcycle because I don’t have the motorcycle. I cannot play volleyball because I’m afraid with the ball. The ball is very fast and what happens if the ball touches my face. I cannot play guitar because I don’t understand the keys of the guitar.
It is clear that the respondent learns a lot from the first and second conference with the researcher. She applies all that has been discussed into her third recording. Other mistakes may occur but they are fewer in number compared to those in the previous two recordings. The next step would be that the respondent may still want to record herself talking about the same thing for the fourth time this time correcting the remaining mistakes, or she could choose to talk about something else. Either way, what is important is that the practice should not stop.
In the interview, the respondent says that she feels confident when recording herself though it is her first time. But she does feel nervous a bit when handling the cassette and the piece of paper to the researcher to check. But soon she gets over it. She says the advantage of self-recording is that she gets to realize the way she speaks and the mistakes she makes instantly. But she says she still needs the teacher’s help to show her other mistakes that she may potentially miss. She will definitely recommend self-recording to those learning English, especially her friends at her course though she says not all have tape recorders at home to record their voice with, which constitutes a technical problem for this technique to materialize. She suggests that she be allowed not only to talk about course or school topic in the recording but also her feeling about something or someone.
Conclusion and Suggestion
Self-recording may offer language learners, in this case English language learners an alternative to language learning in addition to formal and non-formal language classes. Some suggestions that are worth putting forward here are:
a. It should be conducted on a regular basis for optimum results;
b. It should be supervised by the teacher, who helps check the recording and give comment on it;
c. The conference (between the learner and the teacher) about the recording should focus on one aspect at a time (tense, word choice, etc.).
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