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Vol 28, No. 3 (May 2011)

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Computer Assisted Pronunciation Training: Targeting Second Language Vowel Perception Improves Pronunciation

RON I. THOMSON, Brock University, Canada

Abstract:
This paper first provides an overview of factors that constrain ultimate attainment in adult second language (L2) pronunciation, finding that first language influence and the quantity and quality of L2 phonetic input account for much of the variation in the degree of foreign accent found across adult L2 learners. The author then evaluates current approaches to computer assisted pronunciation training (CAPT), concluding that they are not well grounded in a current understanding of L2 accent. Finally, the author reports on a study in which twenty-two Mandarin speakers were trained to better discriminate ten Canadian English vowels. Using a specially designed computer application, learners were randomly presented with recordings of the target vowels in monosyllabic frames, produced by twenty native speakers. The learners responded by clicking on one of ten salient graphical images representing each vowel category and were given both visual and auditory feedback as to the accuracy of their selections. Pre- and post-tests of the learners’ English vowel pronunciation indicated that their vowel intelligibility significantly improved as a result of training, not only in the training context, but also in an untrained context. In a third context, vowel intelligibility did not improve.

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