Phonetization of teaching Russian as a foreign language in digital humanitarian knowledge: theoretical aspect

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Abstract


The article describes the phonetization potential in the process of teaching Russian as a foreign language (RFL) to philology students in the context of digitalization of education. The relevance of the topic is due to the connection between the quality of hearing and pronunciation skills formation and the processes of perception, understanding, memorization, programming an utterance in a foreign language, on the one hand, and the methodological capabilities of modern technologies, on the other hand. The purpose of the work is to present the theoretical foundations of phonetization in teaching RFL and methodological techniques to implement it, taking into account the opportunities of the digital educational environment. The material of the research includes the questionnaires of foreign students studying Russian in bachelor’s, master’s and postgraduate programs, aimed at determining the demand for continuing work on hearing and pronunciation skills formation at the basic and advanced levels. The authors used the following methods: analysis of scientific publications on practical phonetics, digitalization of humanitarian knowledge, listening and pronunciation skills formation by means of electronic linguodidactics, observation of the practical use of phonetization in teaching RFL, questioning the recipients. Basing on the results of the questionnaire survey of foreign students, the authors come to the conclusion that it is important to include work on hearing and pronunciation skills formation at the main and advanced stages of teaching the Russian language practical course in bachelor’s and master’s programs. In this regard, the theoretical knowledge necessary for the teacher to phonetize the learning process at the main and advanced stages is described, namely: the basic concepts in the field of the articulatory apparatus, the characteristics of sounds, the phonetic base of the Russian language, stress, rhythm and reduction in the Russian word, phonetic processes within the word and at the junction of words, the intonation form of the syntagma. The potential of the digital educational space for phonetizing the practical course of the Russian language at the main and advanced stages of university education is revealed, where the content of phonetic work is determined by the characteristics of a particular study group, teacher training, and appropriate methodological recommendations are given. The practical significance of the research lies in the student-philologist and the teacher’s theoretical knowledge generalization, necessary for the phonetization in teaching RFL and their potential application in the context of the educational space digitalization. This study opens prospects for further exploration of the digital educational space potential in order to improve hearing and pronunciation skills and create appropriate teaching materials.


Full Text

Introduction

The study of the phonetic system of a foreign language is an inherent stage in the process of forming a foreign language communicative competence. At the main stage, RFL training corresponds to the period of studying for a bachelor’s degree, at the advanced stage it refers to the master’s degree program, internship in the country of native speakers, postgraduate studies (Shchukin, 2017: 94). Modern RFL textbooks for these stages, based on the communicative principle, are hardly focused on forming phonetic skills.

Meanwhile, correctly formed, eloquent speech in a foreign language is the key to success in career. Teaching methodology, accumulating the results of the research since last mid-century, has the necessary knowledge in order to achieve the desired result – to teach how to pronounce sounds correctly, and with further training to overcome the foreign language accent (Loginova, 1981; Galeeva, Sokolova, 1993; Lyubimova, 2019; Naumenko, 2018, etc.).

To achieve this goal, it is important to provide the teacher's literacy in the field of practical phonetics, the ability to select material in traditional and electronic forms in accordance with the pronunciation difficulties of his students, complementing the educational process at all stages of teaching RFL. This approach in the methodology was first proposed by M.M. Galeeva and was called phonetization (Galeeva, 1984).

I.M. Loginova defines phonetization of teaching as “focus on the correctness of the phonetic aspect when teaching living foreign languages in all speech activity types of students” (Loginova, 2017).

In connection with the digitalization of education, humanitarian knowledge presentation is undergoing significant changes, which is noted in philosophical and methodological works.

According to G.A. Ermolenko and S.B. Kozhevnikov, one of the most relevant issues of modern cognitive science is to determine the features of “the knowledge representation in a developing information society” (Ermolenko, Kozhevnikov, 2020: 54). Answering the question whether the humanities can be non-digital today, S.V. Chernenkaya agrees, but adds that the pervasive digitalization of society is transforming humanitarian knowledge as well (Chernenkaya, 2020: 64).

Digitalization also affects educational information perception. “The modern generation of students (generation Z) is fundamentally different in their ability to perceive and acquire the verbal information (knowledge) traditionally transferred by the teacher from previous generations (the so-called generation X and generation Y). <…> But the teaching methods and technologies are still predominantly conservative” (Ivakina et al., 2021: 39).

In the field of phonetic skills formation using modern technologies at the sound level, one can note listening to Russian sounds recording (“Study Russian Online”[1], “Russland Jornal.de”[2], “MasterRussian.com”[3], etc.); listening to words and matching them with their letter form (“Study Russian Online”, “Russland Jornal.de”, etc.); pronunciation of the written word and machine analysis of the spoken word (open network resource “Duolingo”[4]); listening to the exaggerated pronunciation recording of the sound practiced against the background of a sentence (introductory phonetic and grammar course “Vperyod”[5] (IPGC “Vperyod”); writing what is heard: filling the gaps in the lyrics when listening (interactive portal “Lyricsgaps”[6]). Students can train the sound form of the word in such tasks as repetition of a sounding word sample (“Introductory phonetic and grammar course of the Russian language for English speakers”), describing the features of reduction (“MasterRussian.com”, “Study Russian Online”) and stress, doing exercises on this topic (“Study Russian Online”), pronouncing the written word with the reduction and machine analysis of the spoken word (“Duolingo”), listening to individual words with Russian subtitles (“Time to speak Russian "), tongue twisters (“MasterRussian.com”). They can train Russian speech intonation in the tasks for repetition after the dialogue replicas sample (“Letter. Word. Dialogue”[7]), repetition of etiquette forms, practicing intonation patterns (IP) by repeating after a sounding sample based on the IP with comments in English (IPGC “Vperyod”), listening to situational dialogues with subtitles (“Time to speak Russian”), tongue twisters (“MasterRussian.com”), listening to an audio podcast recorded by native Russian speakers at normal speaking speed with subtitles (“Very Russian”[8]), karaoke (IPGC “Vperyod”) (for more details see: Deryabina et al., 2019: 73).

The structure and organizing principles of an introductory phonetic course in RFL with elements of e-learning attracted attention of A.L. Arkhangelskaya. The research results were implemented in the form of an electronic product used in the practice of teaching the Russian language at the preparatory faculty of Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (Arkhangelskaya, 2017: 36).

In order to support introductory phonetic and grammar courses, an electronic textbook “Russian language with a computer. Step one” was created (Arkhangelskaya et al., 2006).

T.V. Shustikova notes that the use of a linguistic-oriented computer introductory phonetic-grammar course complemented by the traditional printed RFL textbook allows teachers to successfully solve a set of tasks in forming the communicative-speech competence of a beginner student (Shustikova, 2021: 142).

Forming phonetic skills within the framework of the computer-based course was carried out by A.D. Gartsov and T.M. Balykhina (“Vperyod”), T.V. Shustikova (“Introductory Russian phonetic-grammar course for English speakers”, 2013) and others.

It should be noted that methodological work on forming hearing and pronunciation skills using modern technologies is mainly done at the initial stage of training (elementary, basic and threshold levels). This is due to the complexity of its organizing at the main and advanced stages in conditions of different levels of students training, various types of errors and difficulties arising under the influence of phonetic interference, more complex linguistic foundations of training to overcome the accent. At this stage, improving the listening skills is determined by the teacher, at the same time, attaching particular importance to his/her ability, based on theoretical knowledge in the field of practical phonetics, to include appropriate tasks in the process of teaching a foreign language, taking into account the peculiarities of information perception by the modern generation of students.

The aim of the research it to describe theoretical knowledge in the field of practical phonetics (at the level of sound, rhythm, intonation) and methodological techniques necessary for the teacher to phonetize the educational process at the main and advanced stages of training, taking into account the potential of the modern digital educational space.

Methods and materials

To assess the relevance of continuing work on hearing and pronunciation skills formation at the main and advanced stages, a questionnaire comprising seven questions was drawn up. The first three questions were aimed at clarifying personal information about students (country, university, educational level), the fourth and fifth were aimed at assessing the feasibility of continuing improving listening and pronunciation skills and overcoming the foreign language accent at the main and advanced stages of education, the last two questions are for self-analysis of the level of listening and pronunciation skills formation. The answers proposed in the last two tasks were based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2005: 25–26, 116–117).

The research used the following methods: analysis of scientific and scientific-methodical literature; observation of practical application of phonetization in teaching RFL, questioning the recipients.

Results

The survey involved interviewing 118 foreign students studying Russian from China, Vietnam, Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Turkey, Cyprus, Tunisia, South Africa, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gabon, India, Iraq, Cameroon, Colombia, Mongolia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Moldova. 26.5% of the respondents were first and second year bachelor’s degree students, 29.1% were in the third or fourth year of bachelor’s degree, 15.4% were master’s degree students, 29.1% were postgraduate students. The first two levels correspond to the main stage of teaching RFL, the second two – to the advanced stage. The data on the level of education allow us to draw attention to the demand for phonetic work for different categories of students (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The level of education of students who took part in the survey

Figure 2. The relevance of work on improving listening and pronunciation skills at the advanced stage

The answers of the examinees prove the relevance of work on improving phonetic skills and overcoming the accent at the main and advanced stages of learning. 95.8% of students consider it important to include tasks to improve listening and pronunciation skills in teaching Russian as a foreign language at an advanced stage. For 90.7%, work on overcoming the foreign language accent is relevant (Figures 2, 3).

Figure 3. The relevance of work to overcome the foreign language accent at the advanced stage

Figure 4. Self-analysis of the students' level of pronunciation skills

Figure 5. Self-analysis of the students' level of auditory skills

The self-analysis used by the students to assess the level of their listening and pronunciation skills showed that 22.9% chose the requirements for foreign students of level A2 in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, 54.2% – B1, 10.2% – B2, 12.7% (15 people) – C1–C2 (Figure 4).

Self-analysis of the auditory skills showed lower results. 43.6% chose the requirements for foreign students of level A2 in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, 35% – B1, 9.4% – B2, 12 (14 people) – C1–C2. It is worth mentioning that all the participants have certificates confirming the Russian language proficiency at level B1 (Figure 5).

These results confirm the importance of phonetizing the learning process at the main and advanced stages and motivation to improve the quality of phonetic skills.

Discussion

Training listening and pronunciation skills in the framework of the Russian language practical course is based on the teacher’s phonetic literacy. This idea was expressed by L.V. Shcherba and his student L.R. Zinder: “When teaching an activity, one must not only be able to demonstrate it, but also understand its mechanism” (Shcherba, 2008: 323). Awareness implies “at least minimal general phonetic ideas of students and profound knowledge of the teacher” (Zinder, 1979: 16). The teacher needs general phonetic knowledge when explaining the articulation of sounds and correctly identify articulation mistakes (error diagnostics), while the learners use the knowledge to consciously control the speech organs at the moment of a foreign language sound formation (Lyubimova, 2019: 20).

Let us denote the main theoretical aspects that underlie the phonetization of the learning process (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The main theoretical aspects of learning process phonetization

Let us dwell in more detail on the selected aspects from the point of view of the necessary terminological apparatus for phonetizing the learning process, highlighting the basic concepts, which predetermine phonetic training in teaching RFL.

Basic concepts in the field of the articulatory apparatus: tongue (tip of the tongue, dorsum of the tongue, front area, middle area, back area, root of the tongue), lips (upper and lower), teeth (upper and lower), alveoli, hard palate (front area, middle area), soft palate, small tongue (uvula), larynx, vocal cords, oral cavity, nasal cavity, pharyngeal cavity.

Basic concepts in the field of working at the sound level: sound, phoneme, letter, vowel (stressed, unstressed, front vowel, non-front/back vowel, high vowel, mid vowel, low (open) vowel, rounded (labialized) vowels, unrounded (non-labialized) vowels), consonant (voiced-voiceless; hard-soft, velarization, palatalization, anterior/dental, pre-palatal, dorsal/mediopalatal, velar (back)/guttural, obstruent, fricative, affricate, plosive, central, lateral, uvular trill (vibrant), coronal/dental, pre-palatal, bilabial).

Basic concepts in the field of phonetic processes within a word and at the junctions of words: voicing and devoicing assimilation, assimilation by hardness and softness (здесь (here) [z’d’es’], сказка (tale) [skásk/\]), accomodation (из Италии (from Italy) [izytál'iyi]).

Speaking about the phonetic base (Bernshtejn, 1975), it is worth paying attention to the two inextricably interconnected aspects – articulatory and perceptual bases, which are formed simultaneously with listening and pronunciation (phonetic) skills (Lyubimova, 2016: 38). The former is determined by the features of a sound production in the process of communication in a foreign language, and the latter – by the features of its decoding. Correct perception of the speech of a native speaker does not mean that, “decoding a sound signal, the foreign speaker uses in full the system of linguistic features of the given language” (Lyubimova, 2016: 44).

The main features of the articulatory base of the Russian language are: significant stretching of the lips when pronouncing strongly labialized vowels [o], [u]; the difference between labial and labiodental articulations; configuration of the tongue (dorsality, apicality, cakuminality); general localization of the tongue in two main positions (hard-posterior and soft-anterior structures); the degree of the tongue raising when pronouncing the stressed vowels; connection of roundness with the back position of the tongue; non-positional diphthongoidness of vowels; closure tightness; methods of opening the closure without aspiration: sharp, instantaneous ([t],[d], [b], [p], [g],[k]); delayed ([t'],[d'],[b'],[p'],[g'],[k']); gradual, through the slit ([ts],[ch']); anterior lingual alveolar vibrance ([r], [r']); full voicing of noisy voiced consonants (Loginova, 2017: 126)

Basic concepts in the field of the phonetic base of the Russian language: hard-posterior structure, soft-anterior structure, apical structure, dorsal structure, cacuminal structure.

Basic concepts in the field of stress and rhythm of the Russian word: stressed syllable, unstressed syllable, reduction, rhythmics, rhythmic patterns, transcription, reduction of the first degree (short [a] – [/\]), reduction of the second degree (short [y] – [ъ], short [i] – [ь]).

Basic concepts in the field of intonation design of sounding speech: syntagma, intonation, intonation center, tone (even, medium), rise/fall of tone, rising/falling tone, intonation construction 1 – intonation construction 7, logical stress, syntagmatic stress.

A great contribution to the methodology of teaching the intonation of Russian sounding speech was made by E.A. Bryzgunova, who identified and described seven intonation types of syntagmas (Bryzgunova, 1980). Traditionally, this description is used in the process of forming and improving the listening and pronunciation skills of foreigners.

Based on the skills analysis of percepting and producing intonation speech design, V.S. Nefedieva correlates the meanings of syntagmas (message, order (demand), a question with an interrogative word, a question without an interrogative word, re-asking, etc.) with melodics, intensity, presence and absence of pauses (Nefedieva, 2006: 173).

The concepts described above underlie the phonetization of the learning process at the main and advanced stages. One of the means of its implementation is the phonetic markup of the text in electronic format, which allows to visually correlate the sound and alphabetic image of the Russian word, see the phonetic processes at the junction of words, focus on the intonation design of the text when reading.

Electronic text could be the subject of such work. Its presentation makes it possible, without wasting time on writing the text on the blackboard, “to fix attention on phonemes and their modifications, accentuation or transcription of the intonation contour” (Lyubimova, 2019: 22). Such training prepares students for an independent phonetic analysis of the printed text (preliminary phonetic mark-up), which, in combination with the subsequent listening to the speaker in order to check the analysis performed, contributes to the listening and pronunciation skills improvement (Ibid.). Phonetic markup allows to visualize reduction, phonetic processes within a word and at the junction of words, syntagmatic division and intonation design.

Let us give an example of phonetic markup when working with a piece of text “Steel ring” by K.G. Paustovsky[9] (Figure 7), whose works are characterized by a vivid expressive description of nature. Reading the proposed passage, it is important to feel the sounds of spring, to convey the beauty of the author’s words.

The use of intonation structures is useful at the initial stage of training, while in further work on improving rhythmic-intonation skills, one can pay attention to the functions of intonation components (melodics, pause, tempo, duration, logical stress, accent emphasis, etc.).

Phonetic markup is carried out by the teacher directly when working with text in electronic format, depending on the difficulties experienced by students in the process of reading it. When working with the textbook “Russia yesterday and today” (Shaklein et al., 2018: 13) for foreign students-philologists and linguists at the main stage, it may look like in Figure 8.

Figure 7. An example of phonetic markup

Figure 8. An example of phonetic markup

Such markup does not take much time, the teacher can make appropriate comments while listening to the students reading the text in cases of both warning and correcting phonetic mistakes.

In order to correct pronunciation mistakes at the main and advanced stages of learning, it is important to organize the corresponding independent work of the student. After clarifying the features of the sound articulation, where a mistake was made, it is advisable to consolidate the articulation in exercises on reading syllables and words with the sound and correlating with the speaker’s recording, completing electronic tasks aimed at identifying words with a given sound.

Despite the sufficient amount of resources aimed at improving listening and pronunciation skills, students train the rhythm of a word mainly by repetition after a sounding sample. Traditional tasks for practicing the reading of a group of words of one rhythmic model following the speaker can be digitalized (Loginova, 1981; Galeeva, Sokolova, 1993; Naumenko, 2018), the distribution of words according to rhythmic models (Odintsova, 2014), observing the distinction between word forms of nouns (zímy – zimý) and verbs (zvonít’ – zvonít) depending on the stress position and task, implying observation of the inflection -ú in the form of prepositional case ((na) bereg – na beregú) (Naumenko, 2018). Improving rhythmic and intonation skills is facilitated by working with songs, poems (Kindrya, 2018), prose miniatures. The correctness of the sounding speech intonation design when speaking and listening is facilitated by digital tasks to determine the intention of a given statement (for example, the expression of discontent: Nu i gde ty byl? – So where were you?; irony: Vsju zhizn’ ob jetom mechtal! – I have always dreamed of this!; a question with an interrogative word: Gde my vstretimsja? – Where are we meeting? and without it: On v horoshih rukah? – Is he in good hands?, etc.

Digitalizing such tasks, we can realize phonetic control of the perceptual base. Especially here we can note phonetic dictations, which are labour-intensive in checking and effective in improving students' listening and pronunciation skills (Loginova, 1981). This proves the perspectives of further research in this direction.

Conclusion

The results of the survey confirm the relevance of phonetic work at the main and advanced stages. Knowledge of all means of language allows not only to be heard, but understood as well. Considering that the original form of verbal communication is sounding speech, the segmental and super-segmental design of the utterance as a whole plays an important role and requires special attention when teaching a foreign, in particular Russian, language.

Currently, considerable experience has been accumulated to improve phonetic skills, a corresponding program has been developed for philology students, but all this requires a revision of the curriculum, special teaching hours. Phonetization, on the other hand, allows to include phonetic work in the program as applied to various educational material depending on students’ difficulties, and the electronic educational space has the capacity to correct phonetic mistakes in the course of individual work on correcting pronunciation of Russian sounds, rhythm of the Russian word, intonation design of Russian speech.

The conceptual apparatus described in the work forms the basis of the phonetic literacy of the teacher and student-philologist, which is necessary for phonetization of teaching RFL.

The central place in the work on improving phonetic skills belongs to the text as a unit of learning. When working with it in electronic format, the phonetic markup has great potential. Paying attention to the continuous reading of words within syntagmas, phonetic processes at the junction of words, reduction, rhythmic and intonation design of speech, a foreign student uses this skill in his/her own speech, conveys his/her thought expressively, and influences the interlocutor.

The observed trend towards the integration of modern technologies into teaching foreign languages does not replace, but complements the traditional form of teaching. We consider it expedient to create an appropriate database of electronic exercises for phonetizing the process of teaching RFL.

 

[1] Open network resource “Study Russian Online.” Retrieved June 2, 2021, from http://study-languages-online.com

[2] Open network resource “Russland Jornal.de.” Retrieved June 2, 2021, from https://www.russlandjournal.de

[3] Open network resource “MasterRussian.com.” Retrieved June 2, 2021, from http://masterrussian.com

[4] Open network resource “Duolingo.” Retrieved June 2, 2021, from https://ru.duolingo.com

[5] Balykhina, T.M., et al. (n.d.). IPGC “Vperyod.” Multimedia teaching resource. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from https://rusist24.rudn.ru/index.php/obuchenie/katalog-uchebnykh-programm/vpered

[6] Electronic resource “Lyricsgaps.” Retrieved May 30, 2021, from https://www.lyricsgaps.com/

[7] Balykhina, T.M., et al. (n.d.). Letter. Word. Dialogue: Multimedia Russian language program. Retrieved May 28, 2021, from https://rusist24.rudn.ru/index.php/obuchenie/katalog-uchebnykh-programm/bukva-slovo-dialog

[8] Network resource “Very Russian”. Retrieved May 29, 2021, from https://verymuchrussian.com

[9] Paustovsky, K.G. (2018). Steel ring. Moscow: Eksmo Publ. (In Russ.)

About the authors

Svetlana A. Deryabina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
Email: deryabina-sa@rudn.ru
6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

Candidate of Pedagogy, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of the Department of the Russian Language and Its Teaching Methods

Nina A. Liubimova

Saint Petersburg State University

Email: n.lubimova@spbu.ru
7/9 Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya, Saint Petersburg, 119034, Russian Federation

Doctor of Philology, Professor, Professor of the Department of the Russian Language and Its Teaching Methods

References

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Supplementary files

Supplementary Files Action
1.
Figure 1. The level of education of students who took part in the survey

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2.
Figure 2. The relevance of work on improving listening and pronunciation skills at the advanced stage

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3.
Figure 3. The relevance of work to overcome the foreign language accent at the advanced stage

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4.
Figure 4. Self-analysis of the students' level of pronunciation skills

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5.
Figure 5. Self-analysis of the students' level of auditory skills

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6.
Figure 6. The main theoretical aspects of learning process phonetization

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7.
Figure 7. An example of phonetic markup

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8.
Figure 8. An example of phonetic markup

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