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Factors Affecting the Pronunciation Abilities of Adult Learners of English. A Longitudinal Group Study

  • Karin RichterEmail author
Chapter
Part of the English Language Education book series (ELED, volume 16)

Abstract

This paper seeks to shed light on the question as to why some L2 learners are more successful when it comes to pronunciation mastery than others. The most frequently given explanation for this much debated phenomenon is age and the impact of a critical period for language learning. While there seems to be little doubt about the potential correlation between the age of the learner and the ultimate level of his/her pronunciation mastery, there is more scholarly dispute regarding the question of whether age is the single most important reason for incomplete acquisition. This paper reports on the selected findings of a longitudinal group study which was carried out between 2011 and 2014. In this project, the changes in the perceived degree of foreign accent of a group of adult university students (N = 55) were tracked over the entire duration of their Bachelor studies. The learners were recorded twice, once at the beginning and then again at the end of their studies, reading a text and narrating a picture story. In addition, questionnaires were designed to explore the impact of individual factors that may have played a role. The statistical analysis of the data obtained revealed that the overwhelming majority of the learners managed to ameliorate their foreign accent, yet no single factor could be identified as the most influential driver of pronunciation learning. Instead, a number of variables, most notably motivation, a lack of language anxiety, musicality, and increased exposure to the target language were found to be crucial aspects augmenting pronunciation aptitude.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English and American StudiesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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