Training Spanish Speakers in the Perception and Production of English Vowels

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(Thesis) Ph.D.
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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
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