Counteracting age related effects in L2 acquisition : training to distinguish between French vowels
MacDonald, Rachel Margaret Mary
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Two key methods of perceptually training difficult L2 contrasts are the perceptual fading (PF) technique and the high variability phonetic training (HVPT) technique, and perceptual benefits from using both of these methods have also been found to transfer to pronunciation. However, these techniques have not been compared in their classic forms (PF with one speaker vs. HVPT with multiple speakers) with regard to perceptual gains, nor have they been compared with regard to gains in pronunciation accuracy or how any improvement is retained in the long term. Furthermore, whilst a number of studies suggest that motivation, the concern for L2 pronunciation accuracy aspect in particular, along with perception and/or pronunciation training may contribute to more nativelike pronunciation in late L2 learners, this has not been examined with specific reference to these training techniques. The present work compares these techniques for training native English speaking learners of French on difficult L2 French contrasts (/u/ vs. /y/ and /ɑ˜/vs./ɔ˜/),and assesses participant concern for pronunciation accuracy in order to ascertain an optimal training technique to improve the perception and pronunciation of less able learners. Experiment 1 of this thesis compares HVPT and PF using multiple and single speakers and found that the single speaker HVPT technique was significantly less effective than the others immediately after training. Testing again after at least one month suggested that training was best retained either through using PF with one speaker or HVPT with multiple speakers, that is, the techniques in their classic forms. Experiment 2 examines the benefits of these perceptual training techniques vs. pronunciation training vs. perception AND pronunciation training for both perceptual and pronunciation improvement. Undergoing multiple speaker HVPT + pronunciation training (over the same timescale as training in a single modality) appeared to be most beneficial for perception and pronunciation. Experiment 3 examines the relationship between average pronunciation improvement and participant concern for pronunciation accuracy as measured Elliott’s (1995) Pronunciation Attitude Inventory and found that a high concern for pronunciation accuracy is only related to greater improvements when specific, perhaps more monotonous, training techniques (using only one modality and speaker) are used. Overall, the present results provided no evidence of transfer of perceptual training benefits to pronunciation, and only slight evidence of transfer of pronunciation training benefits to perception, although there was a clear link between participant perception and pronunciation ability before training commenced. This is likely to be at least partly why some training in both modalities emerged as most successful in terms of improvements in both domains. It was therefore suggested that it may be prudent to consider the relationship between perceptual and production learning as distinct from any links between perception and production in general.