Background of the study

 There are hundreds of languages spoken in Nigeria. The major languages are Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The official language of Nigeria is English language (the former colonial language) and was chosen to facilitate communication and linguistic unity of the country. English however remains an exclusive preserve of the country urban elite and is not widely spoken in the rural areas which comprises of three quarters of the country’s population (Wikipedia 2013).

Speaking seems to be the most important skill of all the four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) because people who know a language are usually referred to as speakers of that language (Ur, 2016). The major goal of all English language teaching should be to give learners the ability to use English effectively and accurately in communication (Davies andPearse, 2018). However, not all language learners after many years of studying English can communicate fluently and accurately because they lack the necessary competence.Most of the students in secondary schools are not good at speaking English. They may seem to pass exams easily but they find it difficult to use English to communicate.

The focus of speaking  is to improve the oral production of the students. Therefore, language teaching activities in the classroom should aim at maximising individual language use (Haozhang, 2014). In the past, oral speaking instruction was neglected because of the misconception that oral speaking proficiency develops naturally over time and that the cognitive skills involved in writing automatically transfer to analogous oral speaking skills.Speaking is consideras the most important skill among four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) because people who know a language are referred to as speakers of that language. This indicates that the usage of English language is more important than just knowing about it because  there is no point knowing a lot about a language if you can’t use it (Scrivener,2015).

For language learning to take place, there are four conditions that should exist, and they are the exposure, opportunities to use the language, motivation, and instruction. Learners need chances to say what they think or feel and to experiment in a supportive atmosphere using language they have heard or seen without feeling threatened (Willis,2016).

Spitzberg (2011) defined spoken English proficiency as "the ability to interact well with others”. He explains, "the term 'well' refers to accuracy, clarity, comprehensibility, coherence, expertise, effectiveness and appropriateness. Complete operationalization is provided by Friedrich (2014) when he suggests that speaking proficiency is best understood as "a situational ability to set realistic and appropriate goals and to maximize their achievement by using knowledge of self, other, context, and speaking theory to generate adaptive speaking performances."

Speaking  proficiency is measured by determining if, and to what degree, the goals of interaction are achieved.  As stated earlier,  the function of speaking  is to maximize the achievement of “shared meaning.” Parks (2016) emphasize on three interdependent themes:  control, responsibility, and foresight; and argues that to be competent, we must "not only 'know' and 'know how,' we must also 'do' and 'know that we did'".   He defines speaking  proficiency as "the degree to which individuals perceive they have satisfied their goals in a given social situation without jeopardizing their ability or opportunity to pursue their other subjectively more important goals".  This combination of cognitive and behavioural perspectives is consistent with Wiemann and Backlund’s (2010) argument that speaking proficiency is: 

The ability of an interact to choose among available speaking behaviours in order that he may successfully accomplish his own interpersonal goals during an encounter while maintaining the face and line of his fellow students within the constraints of the situation. 

Rababa’ ah (2015) pointed out that there are many factors that cause challenges in speaking English among secondary school students. Some of these factors are related to the learners themselves, the teaching strategies, the curriculum, and the environment. For example, many students lack the necessary vocabulary to get their meaning across, and consequently, they cannot keep the interaction going. Inadequate strategic proficiency and speaking  proficiency can be another reason as well for not being able to keep the interaction going. Some learners also lack the motivation to speak English.

Teaching strategies also contribute to this problem as they are inadequate, and they do not put emphasis on speaking, which results in a meager development of this skill. Besides, vocabulary items are taught in isolation, and listening materials are not used by the majority of school teachers because of the large number of teachers compared to the number of cassettes available. Teacher training programs were found not to be very successful in changing the teachers’ methodology (Rababa’ah,2015). English language is seen as an academic subject only, which means exposure to English language is insufficient. Not allowing learners to participate in discourse can be another reason for speaking difficulties. Children need both to participate in discourse and to build up knowledge and skills for participation in order to learn discourse skills (Cameron, 2011)

Furthermore, English language is best learned when the learners’ attention is focused on understanding, saying and doing something with English, and not when their attention is focused explicitly on linguistic features (Kumaravadivelu,2013). It is worthy to mention that learners can improve their speaking ability by developing learning strategies that enable them to become independent and competent learners (Nakatani, 2010).

A useful framework for understanding speaking proficiency was designed by Spitzberg  andCupach (2011) and is known as the component model of proficiency because it is comprised of three specific dimensions: motivation (an individual’s approach or avoidance orientation in various social situations), knowledge (plans of action; knowledge of how to act; procedural knowledge), and skill (behaviours actually performed).

The component model asserts that speaking proficiency is mutually defined by the interdependency of the cognitive component (concerned with knowledge and understanding), the behavioral component (concerned with behavioural skills), and the affective component (concerned with attitudes and feelings about the knowledge and behaviour) by learners in an interpersonal encounter within a specific context.  Rubin (1985) explains that speaking proficiency is “an impression formed about the appropriateness of another's speaking behaviours” and that “one goal of the speaking scholar is to understand how impressions about speaking proficiency are formed, and to determine how knowledge, skill and motivation lead to perceptions of proficiency within various contexts”. 

When applying the component model to school speaking contexts, Shockley-Zalabak (2008) divided motivation into two separate (though related) elements: sensitivity (the ability to show concern and respect for others) and commitment (the desire to avoid previous mistakes and find better ways of communicating through the process of self-monitoring).  This revised model consisting of four dimensions (knowledge, skill, sensitivity, and commitment) is used by Rothwell (2018) to study speaking proficiency in small group interaction. 

We need linguistic proficiency, an adequate vocabulary and mastery of syntax to speak in another language (Nunan, 1999). However, linguistic proficiency is not sufficient for someone who wants to communicate proficiently in another language. According to Nunan  (1999), the speaker needs speaking proficiency which includes not only linguistic proficiency but also a range of other sociolinguistic and conversational skills which help him or her know how to say what, to whom and when. Johnson (1995) claims that the English  language students need speaking proficiency to participate in and learn from their classroom experience.

In order to help students overcome problems in speaking, it is necessary for the teachers to figure out factors that affect their speaking performance. Students’ speaking performance can be affected by the factors that come from performance conditions (time pressure, planning, standard of performance and amount of support), affective factors (such as motivation, confidence and anxiety), listening ability and feedback during speaking activities.

Nation and Newton (2009) believe that performance conditions can affect speaking performance. The four types of performance conditions that Nation and Newton (2009) suggest are time pressure, planning, the standard of performance and the amount of support.

Speaking skills cannot be developed unless we develop listening skills (Doff, 2018). Students must understand what is said to them to have a successful conversation. Shumin (1997) shares the ideas of Doff (2018) by stating that when one person speaks, the other responds through the means of listening process. In fact, every speaker plays the role of both a listener and a speaker. Therefore, one is  certainly unable to respond if he or she cannot understand what is being said. It means speaking is closely related to listening.

It is obvious that common mistakes identified among the teachers and learners of English as a second language today include improper pronunciation,  poor intonation, as well as misrepresentation of phonetic sounds. For instance, most students misplace the qualities and length of vowels. It is in view of these problems that recent development in language teaching and learning has made the teaching and learning of spoken English not only a necessity but also a pre-requisite for assessing the learner’s competency in language use and acquisition.

Therefore, since emphasis has shifted to studying varied rules aimed at the identification, interpretation and reproduction of English sounds (phonemes), there is every cause to emphasise and to review the teaching of spoken English especially in secondary schools. Furthermore, speech is regarded as personal which represents an individual’s ability to articulate phonemes according to some established norms. It also entails the ability of an individual to identify and understand the representation and meaning of English sounds. It is quite unfortunate that most of our secondary school learners do not exhibit the knowledge of spoken English when using the language which could be associated with the abovementioned factors. In a nutshell, there is the need for concern.

Spoken English proficiency should be made inherent in both instructors (teachers) and learners (students). It was observed that pronunciation teaching has not always been popular with teachers and language theorists and in the 1970s and 1980s. It was considered to be outdated activity. It was claimed that it makes learners try to sound like native speakers of received Pronunciation, which became difficult and led to repetitive exercises, and it also failed to give importance to communication. Jowitt (2001) comments about the negligence of spoken English teaching on teachers. He stated that pupils unconsciously depend onon mother tongue models when deprived them of consistent and reliable guidance from teachers, as indeed many of teachers did: assuming that there was a perfect correspondence between sound and spelling. They use orthography as their guide to pronunciation.

Factors affecting spoken English proficiency could be categorised under one factor – the interference of mother tongue. It is worth noting that for the non-native speakers, the mother tongue always affects the acquisition of the second language. This has always, been a major problem in spoken English or pronunciation teaching especially in Nigerian schools.

Consequently, the teaching of spoken English is rather weighed down by various factors which have contributed to the slow pace and ineffectiveness in teaching the course. These factors include: poor background, Interference of mother tongue, unqualified teachers, poor teaching methodology, lack of constant practice, lack of orientation and facilities, shortage and limited accessibility to relevant books.

Most of the students in our secondary schools are faced with either one of the problems or the other. Some are deficient due to more than one problem especially students from rural and poor backgrounds. It is on this background,  this study examines the problem   oral expression in English class  among secondary schools students in  Akure South Local government area


Statement of the Problem.

            The English language has affected students in the learning of various aspects of English skills most especially the area of spoken skill which leads to their poor grammatical expressions within and outside the school environment.

            Also, for most Nigeria English learners, learn the ability to speak and write intelligible and acceptable expressions in the target language is a task yet to be accomplished.

The main concern of the this investigation is to identify problems that are negatively affecting Oral expression in Secondary Schools. The inquiry will also look at the efforts that have been put in place to tackle the problem of  oral expression.  

Objective  of the Study.

The major objective of this study is to investigate the problem of  oral Expression in English class in selected secondary school in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State.

            The specific objective is to;

1.      The problems of oral expression faced by  students and teachers  in English Class

2.      The students attitude have effect on teaching and learning of English language?

3.      If  teachers qualification and working experience have effect in teaching and learning of spoken English?

4.      Investigate if mother tongue interference have effect on students oral expression?


Research Question.

For the purpose of this research the following questions will guide the study:

1.      What are the problems of oral expression  faced by students and teachers face in in English class?

2.      Does students attitude have effect on teaching and learning of English language?

3.      To What extent does teachers qualification and working experience have effect in teaching and learning of spoken English?

4.      Does mother tongue interference have effect on students oral expression?

Research Hypothesis

The following research hypothesis will be tested at 0.05 level of significance

i.                    Problem oral expression have signifant effect on students spoken skills 

ii.                 Teachers qualification does not have significance effect on  students oral expression

iii.               Mother tongue interference  does not have effect on students oral expression

Significance of the Study

            The study could be useful to students, teachers, educational agencies and the society as a whole. It will help them to know the importance of Spoken English. The outcome of this study could be useful in convincing various schools, authorities and educational agencies.

Also, it will enable teachers to encourage students to communicate often in English language and not to be shy while they want to say anything.

            This study is significant to the extent that it will help to elevate the current status of Spoken which must have been responsible for the turning out of students who are only half-educated in English Language students undergo courses in English both at the primary and secondary schools levels and still get out only to speak bad English. This study hopes to unveils some of the mysteries surrounding the aspects of English by trying to understand what the teachers understand by Oral English as they are pupils and students, this significance of this study will be beneficial to the principal and proprieties in secondary schools. Thus, English teaching should enable the students to think for themselves and express ideals clearly and secondly in realistic situations.

Scope of the Study

                           This study is aimed at investigating the problem  of oral expression in English Class in selected seconsary schools in Akure South local government. The study would cover five randomly selected secondary schools in the local government.



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