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WHATSAPP USED AS A PRONUNCIATION INPUT AID

ISRAEL A C NOLETTO1
ABSTRACT
This article analyses how an Android application known as WhatsApp has been used as
ICT in English for Tourism or Basic English teaching classrooms as a pronunciation input aid
and reinforcement over the course of ten months approximately and three distinct groups.
Besides approaching the contents and methodology applied, the article goes on to show how
students used it and benefited from it. A group was created with the purpose of sending audio
materials to multiple users simultaneously. In order to quantify and qualify the output of the
referred ICT, a survey was conducted among the users.
1. English Pronunciation. 2. ICT. 3. WhatsApp. 4. Teaching

1. INTRODUCTION
Rapid advances in the development of ICT (Information and Communication
Technologies) have generated new prospects for enhancing the quality and effectiveness of
English teaching and learning to speakers of other languages. In the last years, shifting
conceptions of learning brought forth by technological improvements also caused some
changes in English teaching and learning. Language classrooms are now increasingly
becoming blended learning environments that focus on active learning. It is commonly agreed
that active learning advances the learning process and thus raises the quality of the language
learning experience. Blended language learning uses multiple teaching and guiding methods
by combining face-to-face sessions with online activities and utilising a mix of technologybased materials. The growing use of ICT in blended language learning environments has
changed the face of language teaching and learning in a beneficial way and will continue to
do so along with future technological innovations.
On one hand, ICT, predominantly the Internet, provides language learners with the
opportunity to use the language that they are learning in meaningful ways in authentic
contexts. The Internet provides an easy and fast access to the use of current and authentic
materials in English, which is motivating. Such authentic materials include, for example,
online news, web and podcasts, video clips, songs and chatrooms. On the other hand, the
online activities allow for and facilitate cooperation and collaboration with ones peers, be it
1

PIAU FEDERAL INSTITUTE of Education, Science and Technology (IFPI). Professor Specialist in University
Teaching. israelnoletto@ifpi.edu.br

among learners or even among teachers. Another advantage of ICTs for English teaching
classrooms is the chance for teachers to tutor and guide students more effectively and
individually.
In Brazil, the so-called digital inclusion has made popular the Internet and particularly
mobile phones Internet services (via WIFI or 3G networks). As a result many students end up
having fairly constant access to their mobile phones and the Internet they provide. Researches
have shown that those devices have become more popular and more widely used than
computers among Brazilians of all ages. Consequently, utilising ICTs that are compatible with
such gadgets will surely lead to reaching more people and more rapidly.
This essay will thus analyse how an Android chat application, WhatsApp, has been
used in English for Tourism or Basic English teaching classrooms as a pronunciation input aid
and reinforcement, and with what results.
2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
When making use of the WhatsApp chat group, students had been practicing chiefly
two language skills: listening and speaking. As a receptive skill, listening involves making
sense of the meaningful sounds of speech (SPRATT et al, 2007: 30). Chomsky points out that
to learn a language one has to be exposed to it, and that has to do with two major factors:
competence and performance (CHOMSKY, 2005:5).
Although not entirely so, the audio-lingual method, aka aural-oral method, has been a
starting point for the development of the chat group as a teaching and learning environment.
This approach derives from the intensive training in spoken languages given to American
military personnel during the Second World War, which resulted in a high degree of listening
and speaking skill being achieved in a relatively short time-span. The emphasis is on
everyday spoken conversation, with particular attention being paid to natural pronunciation
(CRYSTAL, 1997: 378).
Besides aural-oral features, some thought was given to a more cognitive view and
communicative teaching. As the main alternative to the behaviourist approach, it focuses on
the learners cognitive abilities in a creative way to work out hypothesis about the structure of
the foreign language. As for the communicative teaching, the contents underlying this ICTtool involved attention to the way language is used in everyday situations real tourism
professionals may encounter.

Yet another key factor taken into account for this ICT has to do with the work of
Chomsky and Hymes. A gradual acceptance of Chomskys innatist views led to the notion of
meaning-seeking mind and the concept of a natural approach to language learning. In a
natural approach, the learner works from an internal syllabus and requires input data to
construct the target language system. Now Hymes proposed the notion of communicative
competence, stating that what is crucial is not much a better understanding of how language
is structured internally, but a better understanding of how language is used (ROST, 2001: 8)
3. TARGET PUBLIC
.In order to fully understand what was done and how it influenced the teaching and
learning process, it is necessary to describe and characterise the target public of the ICT. The
tool was put into practice over the course of around ten months, which means two and half
different groups. The first group that was exposed to the new technique was a Basic English
level; the second was an English for Tourism group; and the latest one was again a Basic
English group. The three groups had in common the fact they all were beginners level. The
aims for all the groups were building the students English competence from scratch up to
pre-intermediate.
Another relevant factor about the groups was that the majority of them had an
Android smartphone, which was a prerequisite. As they all had smartphones, they all had a
WhatsApp account as well, except for two students who were above the average age of the
groups. These latter would use their respective daughters phones, though.
While the average age of the three groups ranged from 16 to 50 years, the motivation to
study English was varied. Some of the Basic English groups were studying in order to pass
Masters Degree courses application exams. The ones from the English for Tourism group,
though, were expecting to use their newly learnt knowledge in their work. The youngest ones
were studying as reinforcement for their mandatory high school classes.
4. METHODOLOGY BLENDED LANGUAGE LEARNING
This section of the article is dedicated to describing the technique as used both in class
and extra class on the Internet activities, more specifically via WhatsApp. The referred
application is a sort of SMS exchange software that uses the Internet rather than telephone
signal to send written or audio messages. Some of the key features of the application include,
first its unquestionable popularity among Brazilians, youngsters or not; as well as the

possibility of also sending pictures, text message, sound recording within the application itself
as well as creating groups of several users that send and receive the messages simultaneously.
The application is furthermore available on Playstore.com totally for free. Students only
would have to have a working 3G network or WIFI, which the most frequently had, since they
were already used to using WhatsApp to chatting with their pals.
In any teaching-learning situation, learners can respond at ease for communicative
mode of teaching. Communicative method for learning languages combines extensive, highquality content with flexible and interactive multimedia technology. This comprehensive
language learning approach could perform as a means of self-teaching, as well as teaching
support to formal courses (VIATONU; KAYODE, 2012:2).
In this context, after creating a group on WhatsApp platform and adding all the
students to it, audio files containing the words and expressions taught in class were sent to the
users. Generally, the teacher himself would record those audio files and, alternatively,
whenever possible, they were downloaded from the Internet, using and including authentic
and real life materials or recordings of native speakers like those found in electronic
dictionaries.
The formal classes, those taught at the college, happened in average twice a week and
lasted for about two to three hours. The audio files containing the pronunciation of each word
or expression studied were sent after every weekly encounter and also over the course of the
other business days of the week.
The objective was that students would listen to the pronunciation in different times of
the day several times and at least three times a week. A survey that will be commented
subsequently analysed whether or not those goals were achieved.
Also on the WhatsApp platform, students would post their own audio answers or
repetitions in reply to the questions/example sentences sent by the teacher. When enjoying
their spare time, they would receive instructional material as they chatted with friends, and,
thus would be constantly reminded of what they had studied and how English words would
sound like, since English irregular phonology poses a real challenge to Portuguese native
speakers.
Instances of the activities sent to students included minimal pairs like sheep, ship, chip
cheap; had, head; mat, met; pat, pet; and so on (DALE; POMS, 2005:24). Mild tongue

twisters were also used: Who took my book?; He took a look at the crook; and Could you
eat ten sugar cookies? (DALE; POMS, 2005:38). From time to time, particularly troublesome
sounds to Brazilians were also practiced. That is the case of [] and []. Examples of practices
for those sounds included the sending of recordings and repetition of numbers like 3, 30, 300,
3000, and 3333.
As aforementioned chunks of language or model sentences studied in class were also
sent to students with audio files. Some of the phrases studied included: What do you do?
Whats your name? Good morning; Nice to meet you; Nice to meet you too; Welcome to
[]; Excuse me; Im sorry; See you later; How are you? Fine, thanks, and you?
Another concern that could be taken care of by this technique was teaching students
common collocations. This term generally refers to the way in which two or mre words are
typically used together. For example, we talk about heavy rain, but not heavy sun, or we say
that we make or come to a decision, but we dont do a decision. This is particularly important
when learning the collocations of verbs like have, get, make or do, which are often
referred to as delexical verbs (MCCARTEN, 2007:5).
To attest how much and how well students learned those structures, oral tests in form of
interview were conducted. The groups performance coefficient was respectively: Basic
English I, 9,0; English for Tourism 7,3; and Basic English II, 7,5. When compared with the
previous years when this technique was not applied yet, it is possible to notice an
improvement of about 20% in the grades, but 40% in pronunciation accuracy, which does not
show properly in numbers.
5. STUDENTS SURVEY
With the end of checking how much advantage students really took from the technique,
and how well or often they used it, a survey was conducted among most of them.
The first question of the survey asked how often students studied the audio files sent via
WhatsApp, and 54% answered they listened to them twice a week, whereas 20% answered
every day, a few hours per day. Then, the survey asked whether students were able to relate
the audio files to the contents studied in class, and 80% answered always.

The third question of the survey asked whether students were able to memorise the
pronunciation of the words studied of which audio files had been sent, and 68% answered
always whereas 16% answered nearly always.
The last question listed all the words or expressions whose audio files had been sent and
asked students to tick the ones whose pronunciation they recalled. 78% ticked 67
words/expressions out of 73, provided that items 50 and 73 displayed respectively cardinal
numbers from 1 to 1,000,000 and ordinal numbers from 1st to 10th, and more than half of the
groups ticked those items.
6. CONCLUSION
In the light of what has been exposed here, it is safe to assert that the use of
WhatsApp as a pronunciation input aid technique is valid and meaningful. Students grew
more motivated to study pronunciation through a platform they were already using to have
fun and entertainment. Moreover, having the reinforcement of what they had just been taught
in class at their service all the time, day by day and 24 hours, enabled them to study whenever
they felt the slightest like to.
Besides practice makes perfect, as the proverb says, so the students demonstrated
improved pronunciation and reduced accent on oral tests. That shows the technique, as long as
the application remains popular, must be continued, enhanced and even expanded to include
other language skills.
By other language skills, we mean all the four basic ones (listening, speaking, reading
and writing). The ways for which the WhatsApp platform could be used to train them is by
adding pictures, short and attractive texts, speech replying exercises, gap filling questions, and
so on.
REFERENCES
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MCCARTEN, Jeanne. Teaching Vocabulary: Lessons from the Corpus; Lessons for the
Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
ROST, Michael. Speaking in: The Cambridge Guide to Teaching English to Speakers of
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SPRATT, Mary; PULVERNESS, Alan; WILLIAMS, Melanie. The TKT Teaching
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