Studies from German-speaking Europe
Evaluating the effects of pronunciation training on non-native speech – A case study report
Neurocognitive studies revealed that during their first year of life, children develop language-specific phoneme discrimination skills, which also influence their L2 perception and production skills. This perceptual narrowing in early childhood seems to explain the frequent occurrence of foreign accents in adults. Research in L2 learning has, however, shown that it is still possible to overcome such difficulties through intensive pronunciation training. In light of these findings, we tested the effects of a specific form of pronunciation training (based on electronic modification of the language input) on the German pronunciation of five selected American students over a period of four weeks. On the basis of audio recordings before and after the training phase, we conducted acoustic analyses on the subjects’ realization of the vowels /yː eː øː ə ɔ/ with a total amount of 50 tokens. The students’ speech samples were further evaluated by eight German native speakers with regard to perceived improvements in individual speech sounds (consonants and vowels) and suprasegmental features (rhythm and intonation). The main objectives of these analyses were to determine 1) whether the training method improves subjects’ L2 pronunciation performance and 2) whether native speakers are sensitive to acoustically measurable features of vowels.
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