Variability of Pause Patterns in English Read Speech of Thai EFL Learners
AbstractResearch suggests that pauses are essential in oral communication in that they render intelligibility and contribute to the improvement of speech comprehension. Unfortunately, the teaching of correct pausing has received little attention in EFL classes. As a result, many Thai learners of English tend to use inappropriate phrasing and pausing, which makes their speech sound unnatural or even hinders communication. This study investigates pause patterns in read speech of two English proficiency levels of Thai learners in comparison with those produced by native English speakers. The opening section provides a brief background of the study and terminology related to pauses in spoken language and research objectives. The second section describes the research design. The results of the study presented in the third section reveal that native speakers paused exclusively at sentence ends. Additional pauses were made at major syntactic boundaries. Inter-speaker variability existed at minor syntactic boundaries. Among Thai learners, the lower proficiency group paused more frequently and produced shorter and improper lengths of information chunks than the higher proficiency group, who read in longer, but more syntactically- and semantically-unified, units and therefore paused less. The findings support previous studies that pause is, to a large extent, affected by syntactic structures. Since correct use of pauses can make a marked improvement of intelligibility in speech production, the pedagogical implication offered from the findings is to support the importance of introducing read-aloud tasks in EFL classes.
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