Canadian Modern Language Review new online issue: Second Language Speech Perception and Production: Implications for LT

Volume 70, Number 4 / November 2014

Second Language Speech Perception and Production: Implications for Language Teaching / Perception et production de la parole : répercussions sur l’enseignement des langues secondes

This issue contains:

The past decade has witnessed a steady increase in research on foreign- or second-language (L2) speech perception and production targeting varied populations of speakers, using different languages in various linguistic, educational, social, and political contexts. However, most of this research –whether it is carried out in areas of speech pathology, speech science, linguistics, psychology, or cognitive science – has been largely theoretical and has not been targeted toward researchers and teachers interested in the pedagogical aspects of L2 pronunciation teaching and learning. Motivated by this observation and the recent growth of research in the area, this special issue of the Canadian Modern Language Review /La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes (CMLR/RCLV) emphasizes the pedagogical implications and applications of research to L2 speech perception and production. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.70.4.editorial

Changes in Second-Language Learners’ Oral Skills and Socio-Affective Profiles Following Study Abroad: A Mixed-Methods Approach
Debra M. Hardison  
Research on the effectiveness of short-term study-abroad (SA) programs for improving oral skills has shown mixed results. In this study, 24 L2 German learners (L1 English) provided pre- and post-SA speech samples addressing a hypothetical situation and completed surveys on cross-cultural interest and adaptability; L2 communication affect, strategies, perceived competence; and L2 contact. Native speakers (NSs) provided ratings for pronunciation, fluency, grammar, vocabulary, and accentedness. Results revealed significant improvement in all oral skills and positive changes in the socio-affective factors. Participants who reported more positive affect in interactions with NSs pre-SA tended to spend more hours in extended interactions with them while abroad. These hours were related to increased positive communication affect post-SA. No significant relationships were found between L2 contact and gains in oral skills. Homestay experiences were positive, providing opportunities for extended interactions and cultural knowledge. For classroom learners, findings suggest a role for e-languaging tasks with NSs. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2202

The Link between Pronunciation Anxiety and Willingness to Communicate in the Foreign-Language Classroom: The Polish EFL Context
Małgorzata Baran-Łucarz    
Anxiety and L2 self-confidence have been suggested as vital determinants of willingness to communicate (WTC) in a foreign-language (FL) learning environment. Studies also demonstrate that it is a concern over pronunciation mistakes that is particularly likely to cause embarrassment and apprehension in FL students. Linking these two facts may lead to an explanation for why many post-puberty learners avoid participating in speaking tasks in the FL classroom. The present article reports the outcomes of a study adopting a mixed-methods approach, which showed that pronunciation anxiety (PA) – conceptualized as pronunciation self-perception, fear of negative evaluation, and beliefs concerning the pronunciation of the target language – is related to WTC (r = −.60 at p < .001). Moreover, results of t-tests suggested that high-PA learners have statistically lower degrees of WTC than their low-PA classmates. A link between the two constructs was further observed through the following situational variables: level of familiarity with interlocutor(s), group size, type of task, and target-language proficiency level. The quantitative data were supported by answers to open-ended questions. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2666

Second-Language Learners’ Identification of Target-Language Phonemes: A Short-Term Phonetic Training Study
Juli Cebrian, Angelica Carlet
This study examined the effect of short-term high-variability phonetic training on the perception of English /b/, /v/, /d/, /ð/, /æ/, /#_x028C_#/, /i/, and /i/ by Catalan/Spanish bilinguals learning English as a foreign language. Sixteen English-major undergraduates were tested before and after undergoing a four-session perceptual training program involving a series of discrimination and identification tasks. Although some scores were already high at pre-test, there was improvement from pre-test to post-test, and this improvement generalized to novel words and a novel talker. An effect of word frequency was observed, but this effect was found to decrease after training. The results show that relatively advanced foreign-language learners in an instructional setting may improve in perception as a result of short-term high-variability phonetic training. The implications of these findings for the teaching of pronunciation are discussed. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2318

Two Phonetic-Training Procedures for Young Learners: Investigating Instructional Effects on Perceptual Awareness
Esther Gómez Lacabex, Francisco Gallardo del Puerto    
This study investigated the effect of two distinct computer-based phonetic training procedures administered in an English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) classroom with young learners. Students’ perceptual awareness of the occurrence of an English schwa in an unstressed position in content words was tested in two experimental groups, which underwent differentiated training regimes (auditory discrimination/identification practice and listen-and-repeat practice), and a control group, which received no phonetic treatment. A training effect was shown by the significant improvement in the perception abilities of the two experimental groups only. In addition, both experimental groups exhibited comparable improvement in all the variables analyzed. Training effects were also found for the word-familiarity variable, which was mitigated after treatment. Results suggest a positive impact of both aural and imitation computer-based phonetic training on L2 sound perceptual awareness in classroom settings with young learners. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2324

What Predicts the Effectiveness of Foreign-Language Pronunciation Instruction? Investigating the Role of Perception and Other Individual Differences
Elizabeth M. Kissling
This study investigated second language (L2) learners’ perception of L2 sounds as an individual difference that predicted their improvement in pronunciation after receiving instruction. Learners were given explicit pronunciation instruction in a series of modules added to their Spanish as a foreign language curriculum and were then tested on their pronunciation accuracy. Their perception of the target sounds was measured with an AX discrimination task. Though the best predictor of pronunciation post-test score was pre-test score, perception made a unique and significant contribution. The other factors associated with better pronunciation of some L2 sounds were age, attitude, and time spent using Spanish outside the classroom. The results suggest that instructors should give adequate time for learners to hone their perception of target sounds at the outset of pronunciation instruction, because their initial ability to perceive the target sounds will, in part, determine how much they learn from such instruction. The results support models of L2 speech acquisition that claim that target-like perception is a precursor to target-like production, in this case in a formal learning context. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2161

Les effets de l’enseignement des phénomènes d’enchaînement sur la production orale des élèves dans un cours d’espagnol langue étrangère au Québec
Cristina Uribe, Henrietta Cedergren, Jessica Payeras        
Le présent article offre un aperçu d’une étude expérimentale réalisée dans le cadre d’un cours d’espagnol langue étrangère donné dans une école secondaire à Montréal. Cette étude avait deux objectifs : (a) vérifier l’impact d’une instruction explicite sur le fonctionnement de la synalèphe et de l’enchaînement sur la production orale des étudiants et (b) confirmer si la réalisation de ces phénomènes est associée aux évaluations de niveau d’aisance perçue par des locuteurs hispanophones natifs. Pour ce faire, une intervention pédagogique a été mise en place durant six semaines afin de montrer aux apprenants le fonctionnement desdits phénomènes. Cette étude a été menée selon un protocole expérimental pré-test/post-test auprès de deux classes ayant un niveau similaire de langue et la même charge horaire par semaine. L’une des deux classes formait le groupe témoin (n = 22) et l’autre, le groupe expérimental (n = 24). Trois locuteurs hispanophones natifs ont évalué, selon leur propre perception, la réalisation des phénomènes enseignés et le niveau d’aisance des énoncés produits par les apprenants. Notre analyse suggère que l’instruction explicite sur les deux phénomènes contribue à leur intégration dans la production orale des apprenants. Nous avons également trouvé une corrélation entre les variables « réalisation des phénomènes d’enchaînement » et « niveau d’aisance perçue » : les participants qui enchaînent les mots au cours de leurs productions ont été perçus comme ayant un niveau d’aisance plus élevé que ceux qui ne les enchaînent pas. DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.2307

Book and Software Reviews / Critiques de livres et de logiciels
A. Moyer (2013), Foreign Accent: The Phenomenon of Non-native Speech. reviewed by Annie Bergeron
DOI: 10.3138/cmlr.70.4.rev1

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