Training Spanish Speakers in the Perception and Production of English Vowels

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This thesis investigates the effects of training native speakers of Spanish in the perception and production of the English pairs of vowels /i/-/I/, /u/-/u/, and /a/-/A/ in a regular ESL classroom setting. Thirty-two adult native Spanish speakers, sixteen in the control group and sixteen in the experimental group, participated in the study. The experimental design included a pretest-posttest procedure in order to compare the subject's performance before and after training. Perception was tested using a minimal pair forced choice task including multiple samples of the three pairs of vowels. Production data was provided by reading 15 sentences and a paragraph, all of which contained the target vowel contrasts. Over a three-week training period, the subjects in the experimental group were given instruction on how to identify and produce the English pairs of vowels 111-/I/, /u/- /u/, and /a/-/A/. Their progress was tested through quizzes at the end of each week. No recordings were used during the lessons. The effect of training on perception was demonstrated through a direct comparison between the scores on the pretest and posttest. Analysis reveals a significant improvement (from 60.1% to 83.3%) in the subjects' performance as an effect of training. A mixed design ANOVA with 1 between factor (group) and 2 within factors (vowel and time) shows a significant group x time interaction (p<.05). The effect of training on production was assessed through a category goodness test and a comprehensibility test. Overall, there was no significant improvement as an effect of training. The study provides evidence that Spanish speaking adults who learn ESL can be taught to perceive certain vowels with more accuracy in a regular classroom environment. Accuracy gained for perception in the training was not transferable to production. The study suggest that exposure to the language might have been an important factor affecting these results in production.

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Document type: 
Subject headings: 
English language -- Vowels.
English language -- Study and teaching -- Spanish speakers.
English language -- Pronunciation by foreign speakers.
Speech perception,
Theses (Dept. of Linguistics) / Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (Ph.D.)