ISSN 2630-0583 (Print)

ISSN 2630-0656 (Online)

JCST

Journal of Current Science and Technology

http://jcst.rsu.ac.th

Rangsit Journal of Arts and Sciences. Vol.7 No.1 , January - June 2017.

Strategic competence of bilingual learners at the Primary and Secondary levels

Ruja Pholsward

Abstract

          This paper reports English strategic competence used by bilingual learners at the levels of Primary 6 and Secondary 3 at Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University.  The purposes were (1)  to find out the extent to which learners at these levels were able to use strategic competence to communicate their ideas about themselves and their school life, and (2) to identify cultural appropriateness or inappropriateness in the learners’ use of verbal and nonverbal strategies in oral discourse. The subjects were 34 primary 6 students and 18 secondary 3 students. All subjects were individually interviewed by two bilingual researchers of Thai and English—one Thai and one American. A set of ten questions was used in a 15-minute interview in English to secure strategic competence data from each subject. Strategic competence was evaluated via communication skills at five levels in the use of verbal and nonverbal strategies:  (1) Fully competent, (2) Functionally competent, (3) Moderately competent, (4) Sufficiently competent, and (5) Marginally competent. All interviews were recorded with consent of the subjects.  The results on verbal strategies used by the primary 6 and secondary 3 subjects at Communication Skill Level 1 showed their competence on (1) linguistic devices to keep the conversation going, (2) full control of tenses (3) natural expressions, (4) negation strategy and (5) avoidance strategy. Those at levels other than Level 1 resorted to code switching from English to Thai or mixed code, and the use of Thai structures in English expressions. As for nonverbal strategies, the primary 6 and secondary 3 subjects at Levels 1 and 2 revealed competence on (1) eye contact, (2) hand gestures, (3) leaning forward when asking for clarification, (4) nodding in agreement, (5) appropriate proximity, (6) good voice control, and (7) good or native-like prosodic features. Those less competent at Levels 3-5 showed lack of proper eye contact, shy facial expression and reserved body language, soft voice and mumbling, moving hands nervously, scratching head and forehead, and swirling the chair to and fro while talking. As for the subjects’ cultural appropriateness, it was found that more competent subjects showed a higher degree of cultural appropriateness than those less competent.

Keywords: strategic competence, bilingual learners, Primary 6, Secondary 3, Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University

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