University of Pennsylvania
Music in the pronunciation classroom: Are all approaches created equal?
Studies and materials related to the use of music in the second language classroom often tout increased engagement as a major benefit. While this has been documented generously (Fischler, 2006; Graham, 1978; Israel, 2013), there are various contextual factors which shape learners’ experience of music-based approaches to pronunciation instruction in drastically different ways. This presentation is based on data from an elective pronunciation course at a U.S. university in which I introduce rap and pop music activities for the purpose of developing students’ speech rhythm. In the role of teacher-researcher, I employ qualitative methods to understand how learners perceive and engage with the music-based pronunciation instruction; I also document the affordances and limitations of various activity types.
The findings reveal that students’ experiences with these music-based pronunciation activities vary according to their own personal beliefs, the alignment of the activities with their social goals and the interactional affordances of the activities. The findings also complicate the idea that all approaches to using music in the pronunciation classroom are, in fact, equal. As such, I conclude by arguing in favor of a more nuanced consideration of the coalescing factors involved with using music in the pronunciation classroom.
Beaulieu, Suzie (Université Laval)
French, Leif (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)
Can explicit instruction promote the development of French L2 learners’
socio-phonetic productive knowledge?
Research has shown that French second language (L2) learners’ limited ability to adapt their speech to the level of informality of the situation negatively influences how they are perceived by native speakers (Beaulieu, 2012; Segalowitz, 1976). Yet, despite the importance of both receptive and productive knowledge of stylistic features for learners who seek to use their L2 in a variety of social contexts (Mougeon et al., 2010), the explicit teaching of stylistic features of French has received virtually no pedagogical focus in North American French L2 classrooms (Etienne & Sax, 2009). To address this pedagogical shortcoming, a 45-hour advanced French L2 course was designed to introduce students to the most common socio-stylistic features (e.g., ne deletion / retention and schwa deletion / retention) found in (Canadian) French.
The present study attempted to evaluate the effects of this course on the students’ (n=18) development of planned and unplanned productive knowledge of a socio-phonetic variation phenomena (/l/ deletion vs. retention). A pre-planned story retell task was used to assess students’ productive socio-phonetic knowledge before and after the course. A second retell task was also added at the post-test to assess students’ spontaneous unplanned production of the target variable which was then compared to a corpus of French L1 speakers (n = 23) recorded under the same conditions.
Preliminary findings suggest that explicit instruction triggered changes in students’ unplanned planned productive use of the target feature; however, this use differed from that of native speakers.
Beaulieu, S. (2012). Towards a sociolinguistically informed pedagogy: French for L2 nursing students in Alberta. Unpublished dissertation: University of Alberta.
Etienne, C., & Sax, K. (2009). Stylistic variation in French: Bridging the gap between research and textbooks. The Modern Language Journal, 93, 584-606.
Mougeon, R., Nadasdi, T., & Rehner, K. (2010). The Sociolinguistic Competence of Immersion Students. Bristol/Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
Segalowitz, N. (1976). Communicative incompetence and the non-fluent bilingual. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 8(2), 121-131.
Brinton, Donna (UCLA – retired)
Chan, Marsha (Mission College)
What’s Hot? What’s Not? Insights from Pronunciation Practitioners
An important discussion forum in today’s global Applied Linguistics community is the electronic mailing list. Elists have a variety of functions, the primary of which is to provide an online discussion venue for practitioners to exchange information and ideas. The primary functions of elists are the following: (1) discussion of administrative issues (e.g., distribution of addresses, introduction of new members, announcements of events);
(2) request for/provision of references on a topic; and (3) general discussion of issues.
In this session, the presenters summarize discussions held on a moderated invitational elist comprising an international community of pronunciation practitioners. Discussion on this elist covers a broad range of topics, from how best to teach certain features of English pronunciation to differences in dialects of the English-speaking world to research into prosodic phenomena. Discussion is of an informal nature, with participants having four basic options: (1) to generate a new discussion strand; (2) to respond to a previously- initiated discussion strand and react to other participants’ views; (3) to share knowledge on a topic in response to queries put out to the elist; or (4) to more passively participate in a discussion by reading others’ elist postings.
The presenters, both members of the elist, share highlights from their research into the main discussion topics (strands) and discussion substrands (threads) over the past one- year period, synthesizing particularly controversial or informative discussion threads. Discussion strands (e.g., accent prejudice, rating levels of pronunciation competence, charts for English pronunciation teaching, and the role of pronunciation in speaking test ratings) will be analyzed, and sample verbatim comments will be shared.
Buss, Larissa (Concordia University)
Kennedy, Sara (Concordia University)
L2 Graduate Students’ Development of Speaking in Oral Presentations
Academic speaking is an essential skill for graduate students, but it can pose significant challenges to those studying in a second language (Berman & Cheng, 2010; Ferris, 1998). Although some universities offer programs to help L2 students acquire this skill, there is little empirical evidence to inform the selection of targets for academic speaking instruction. One point that is still unclear is whether certain aspects of oral presentations are more likely than others to develop incidentally (i.e., without instruction in academic speaking). The main purpose of this study was to address this question by analyzing longitudinal changes in oral presentations given by 11 L2 graduate students at a Canadian university.
At the beginning and end of two consecutive semesters, the 11 students were recorded giving five-minute presentation explaining a key concept/term in their field to an imagined audience of first-year undergraduates (4 presentations, 26 weeks). Excerpts of around one minute were taken from each presentation (n = 104 excerpts) and was randomly presented to fifteen untrained native English raters who rated the samples for six constructs: accentedness, comprehensibility, content, organization, fluency, and speaking style. Repeated measures ANOVAs conducted on the ratings showed no significant differences for overall differences in students’ ratings over time. However, main effects and interactions for the different constructs and interactions were found. Raters always distinguished between students’ accentedness and comprehensibility in the ratings. However, ratings of the first presentation did not distinguish between students’ accentedness and fluency or between students’ comprehensibility, fluency, and speaking style. Ratings of later presentations showed differences between students’ comprehensibility, fluency, and speaking style, but still did not distinguish between their accentedness and fluency. Results will be discussed in light of possible task effects due to students’ preparation and in light of untrained raters’ understanding of constructs.
Buss, Larissa (Concordia University)
Kennedy, Sara (Concordia University)
Cardoso, Walcir (Concordia University)
The Role of Intonation in the Organization of L2 Academic Discourse
Prosody has been identified as an important element in the organization of academic discourse (Pickering, 2004; Tyler, Jefferies, & Davies, 1988). In English, intonation contour is used to indicate whether a given phrase should be interpreted as separated from or connected to a subsequent phrase (Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg, 1990), and pitch range is expanded to signal topic shift (paratone). There is evidence suggesting that accuracy in the use of the paratone by second language (L2) speakers is significantly related to their comprehensibility (Wennerstrom, 1998). Despite its importance, the acquisition of prosody as an organizational tool for L2 academic discourse has been understudied. This study tracks the longitudinal development of
intonation in oral presentations given by eight nonnative graduate students at a Canadian University (4 females and 4 males).
The participants were instructed to prepare five-minute presentations explaining a key concept/term in their field to an imagined audience of first-year undergraduates. Data collection occurred at four points in time: at the beginning and end of their first two semesters of study (4 presentations, 26 weeks). The participants did not receive any instruction in academic speaking or teaching during the study. In each presentation, paratone and use of pitch at phrase boundaries were analyzed with the software program Praat (Boersma & Weenink, 2014). This was done by calculating changes in pitch range at rhetorical shifts and by identifying the pitch level used at phrase boundaries. Two comparable presentations given by graduate students who were native
English speakers (1 female and 1 male) were also examined. Descriptive statistics will be used to compare the native and nonnative speaker data and to report longitudinal changes in the L2 speakers’ use of intonation. Pedagogical implications for English for Academic Purposes will also be discussed.
Chun, Dorothy (UC Santa Barbara)
Jiang, Yang (UC Santa Barbara)
Meyr, Justine (UC Santa Barbara)
Yang,Rong (UC Santa Barbara)
Acquisition of L2 Mandarin Chinese Tones with Learner-Created Tone Visualizations
This paper reports on a study in which 35 first-year Mandarin Chinese learners were taught (1) to record themselves and create pitch curves of their spoken word tones using an open source program (Praat) and (2) to compare their pitch curves with those of native speakers. Building on an earlier short-term pilot study, which suggested that visualizations could be helpful for improving tone production (Chun, Jiang, & Ávila, 2013), the learners in this study received
sustained, systematic training for pronunciation of disyllabic words and phrases using the visualizations that they had created themselves. The training took place for 20-25 minutes every week over 9 weeks. Two types of data analyses were performed. First, four native speakers of Mandarin auditorily rated the pre- and post-test recordings. The ratings of the learners’ recordings by native speakers revealed that learners’ pronunciation of tones improved between the pre- and post-tests. Second, acoustic analyses of the learners’ recordings were conducted, also using Praat, and the learners’ production data was compared
with native speakers’ production. Results of these analyses indicated that in the pre-test students had difficulty with either pitch height or pitch contour (sometimes both). In the post-test, students’ pronunciation of some tones improved, depending on whether they were high- or low-proficiency learners. In general, the auditory analyses by the native speakers were corroborated by the acoustic data. In addition, post-treatment surveys indicated that two-
thirds of the participants perceived that viewing pitch curves was helpful for tone acquisition. This study confirms previous work that employed both auditory and acoustic analyses of tone production, and has implications for the use of pitch visualizations for pedagogical purposes.
Dickerson, Wayne (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
A NAIL in the Coffin of Stress-Timed Rhythm
Conventional wisdom in the TESL community is that English phrases are spoken with stress-timed rhythm, where rhythmic accents occur at regular intervals. For seventy years, this claim has held such appeal that TESL practitioners have largely ignored the research on a variety of languages that has repeatedly failed to confirm the existence of stress timing in any language (Cauldwell 2002).
If stress timing is a myth, then what accent pattern does English really have? Bolinger (1961:135) says the majority of spoken English phrases have only one or two accents, a pattern he depicts as a two-tower suspension bridge. Wells (2006:192) says: “An IP [intonational phrase] usually contains only one or two accents (onset and nucleus or just a nucleus).”
So why has this accent pattern not gained currency in TESL? Because its two accents have not been predictable enough to guide learners’ production. While good descriptions of the second peak—the nucleus—exist, there have been no adequate descriptions of the first peak—the onset.
This paper reports on research that addresses the question: Where is the onset? The result is a rule that is sufficiently accurate and simple that learners can find the onset and use the two-accent pattern for themselves. NAIL is an acronym that stands for categories of words that attract the onset. After using the rule for two years with university-level students, we share our observations about its success. This rule holds the promise of finally putting stress timing behind us and teaching English as it is actually spoken.
Bolinger, D. 1961. Three analogies. Hispania, 44, 134-137.
Cauldwell, R. 2002. The functional arhythmicality of spontaneous speech: A discourse view of speech rhythms. Apples 2(1), 1-24.
Wells, J. 2006. Intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Foote, Jennifer (Concordia University)
McDonough, Kim (Concordia University)
Form-focused Pronunciation Activities: To Repeat or Not to Repeat?
The second language (L2) classrooms that are believed to provide optimal conditions for learning are those with a primary focus on authentic communication and a secondary focus on form (Ellis, 2001; 2005). However, pronunciation instruction tends to be the reverse, having a strong focus on form, often by way of repetition, while authentic communication is secondary (e.g., Gilbert, 2005; Grant, 2010). Repetitive, form-focused instruction has been shown to have a positive effect on L2 speakers’ pronunciation (e.g., Couper 2003, 2006; Derwing, Munro & Wiebe, 1997; Saito & Lyster, 2012). Given the popularity of communicative approaches to instruction, an interesting question is how L2 speakers view form-focused, repetition-heavy pronunciation activities.
This study investigates the perceptions of university-level L2 English speakers (N = 16) about a popular pronunciation activity called shadowing. Shadowing is a form-focused technique where speakers copy a speech stimulus by repeating it nearly simultaneously. Over an eight-week period, each participant received a weekly dialogue for shadowing practice and used an Ipod app to record their practice. They were required to practice at least four times per week for a minimum of 10 minutes per time and to log their practice times. At both the midpoint and the end of the study, the participants were interviewed about their perceptions about shadowing. Weekly logs indicated that participants frequently practiced longer than the minimum required. The interviews revealed that most participants were positive about the tasks despite, or even because of, their focus on repetition. Implications for pronunciation instruction are highlighted.
Couper, G. (2003). The value of an explicit pronunciation syllabus in ESOL teaching. Prospect, 18, 53-70.
Couper, G. (2006). The short- and long-term effects of pronunciation instruction. Prospect, 21, 46-66.
Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., & Wiebe, G. E (1997). Pronunciation instruction for “fossilized” learners: Can it help? Applied Language Learning, 8, 217-235.
Ellis, R. (2001). Introduction: Investigating form-focussed instruction. Language Learning, 51(Supp. 1), 1-46.
Ellis, R. (2005). Principles of instructed language learning. System, 33(2), 209-224.
Gilbert, J. (2005). Clear speech: Pronunciation and listening comprehension in American English (3rd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Grant, L. (2010). Well said (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.
Saito, K. and Lyster, R. (2012). Effects of form-focused instruction on L2 pronunciation development of /ɹ/ by Japanese Learners of English. Language Learning, 62, 2, 595–633.
French, Leif (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)
Gagné, Nancy (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)
Guay, Jean-Daniel (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi)
Beaulieu, Suzie (Université Laval)
Short-term study abroad: French learners’ fluency, comprehensibility and accentedness
As a result of the proliferation of short-term (less than 8 weeks) study abroad (SA) programs in North America and Europe, researchers (e.g., Duperron & Overstreet, 2009) have increasingly underlined the importance of investigating the impact of these programs on the development of second-language (L2) skills. Although little research currently exists in this area, it does suggest that length of stays of as little as three weeks can positively impact both lexical and oral production skills, especially fluency (Llanes, 2011). Thus far, however, virtually no research has systematically examined the influence of short-term SA contexts on the development of adults’ L2 oral production skill from a tri-dimensional perspective (Derwing & Munro, 2013) targeting the notions of perceived fluency, comprehensibility and accentedness.
This study set out to investigate the development of adult L2 (French) learners’ (n = 100) fluency (flow of language output), comprehensibility (perceived difficulty of understanding) and accentedness (perceived difference in accent with respect to Québec French) when enrolled in a short-term (5-week) SA program in Quebec, Canada. Learners’ oral production was assessed during the first week (Time 1) and last week (Time 2) of the program using a picture-narrative task based on The Suitcase Story (Derwing et al., 2004). Time 1 and Time 2 speech samples (M = 32 sec) were then randomized and rated on each of the three dimensions by expert Québec French speakers (n = 10) using a 9-point Likert scale.
The findings from this study will be presented in terms of the following questions: 1) Is a 5-week intensive learning period sufficient enough to observe significant changes in French (L2) learners oral production skill indexed as a tri- dimensional model (perceived fluency, comprehensibility and accentedness)? 2) Do initial (Time1) levels of oral production skill have a differential impact on the development of these dimensions over the five-week period? 3) To what extent do the findings converge with the large body of empirical work with English as the target language?
Llanes, À. (2011). The many faces of study abroad: An update on the research on L2 gains emerged during a study abroad experience. International Journal of Multilingualism, 3, 189-215.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2013). The development of L2 oral language skills in two L1 groups: A 7-year study. Language Learning, 63(2), 163-185.
Derwing, T.M, Rossiter, M.J., Munro, M.J., & Thomson, R.I. (2004). Second language fluency: Judgments on different tasks. Language Learning, 54 (4), 655-679.
Duperron, L., & Overstreet, M. H. (2009). Preparedness for study abroad: Comparing the linguistic outcomes of a short-term program by third, fourth and sixth semester L2 learners. Frontiers, 18, 157-179.
Grim, Frederique (Colorado State University)
Miller, Jessica (University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire)
Spoken French in a Phonetics Course: Impressions and Applications
In L2 French courses in the United States, standard French, also called international French, is the preferred language taught. The goal is to teach learners to communicate anywhere in the world. However, this arbitrary view of the French language creates a linguistic dichotomy as the youth, in any Francophone country, do not speak standard French (Guadet & Guérin, 2008; Primoz, 2002). L2 Learners are exposed to an unauthentic way to communicate and might face challenges when travelling or studying abroad and intermingling with native speakers. Few studies have compared the use of standard French vs. spoken French (Armstrong, 2001; Knaus & Nadasdi, 2001; Meissener, 1999), particularly in light of the communicative language approach. In a Canadian and immersion context, studies have shown that learners tend to lean towards the use of standard French and do not consider the communicative language focus most curricula have adopted in the past years (Knaus & Nadasdi, 2001; Meissener, 1999).
Through online pre-course and post-course surveys, this presentation will share the opinion of students taking a 3rd-year French phonetics course from 2 different institutions. In the course, they were exposed to the pronunciation of standard French and spoken French. Their comparisons of spoken French and standard French will be presented, along with pedagogical implications for language courses, regardless of language and content.
Harada, Tetsuo (Waseda University)
Long-term effects of early foreign language learning on phonemic discrimination
Though age of learning effects on second language (L2) speech perception and production in a naturalistic setting are well documented (e.g., Flege, 1999), it is controversial whether or not early foreign language (FL) learning in an instructional setting (i.e., a few hours’ classroom contact per week) will benefit L2 speech learning. Some studies show perceivable age effects of FL on phonemic perception (e.g., Larson-Hall, 2008; Lin et al., 2004, only under noise condition), whereas others (e.g., García Lecumberri & Gallardo, 2003; Muñoz, 2011) report no age of learning effects. This study investigated 1) age effects of English language learning in the instructional setting on the perception of English consonants produced by several talkers under different noise conditions, and 2) the relationship of learners’ phonemic discrimination ability with their language learning experiences in both childhood and adulthood. The participants were native speakers of English (n = 10) and two groups of Japanese university students: one group (n = 21) started studying English for a few hours a week between ages of three and eight (early learners), and the other (n = 24) began to study in junior high school at the age of twelve or thirteen (late learners). The selected target phonemes were word-medial approximants (/l, r/). Each nonword (i.e., ala, ara), produced by six American English-speaking talkers, was combined with speech babble at the signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) of 8 dB (medium noise) and 0 dB (quite high noise for L2 listeners). A discrimination test was given in the ABX format (e.g., A: ala, B: ara, X: ala). Results showed that as opposed to the assumption that the earlier the better, the late learners discriminated /l/ and /r/ better than the early learners regardless of the noise and talker conditions (p < .05). Regression analyses also indicated that the only factor found to be significantly correlated with the early learners’ discrimination scores was the length of learning, while the late learners’ performance was accounted for by their current classroom interaction with teacher and peers, and use of spoken English outside of classroom (p < .05). This may support Muñoz’s (2011) finding that in early FL learning in instructional settings, late learners may catch up depending on the quality and quantity of input.