Toward a Method to Uncover L1 Japanese Sociophonetic Transfer to L2 English
Prosody, the rhythm, tone and pitch of speech, could negatively transfer to L2 speech and affect L2 intelligibility (Derwing & Munro 1997). In cases of beginner-intermediate Japanese EFL learners, the main aspects transferred were speech rhythm (Ueyama 2000), intonation structure (Teaman 1992, Ueda & Saito 2010, Yamane et al. 2016), and pitch range (Fujimori et al. 2015). What is surprising is that in spite of their high scores on perception and recognition tests about information focus in sentences, their scores of production test marked low (Yoshimura et al. 2016). Typically, Japanese EFL learners at Japanese universities have few opportunities to speak English to L1 English speakers, and are naive about socioculturally-induced sociophonetic aspects of L1 Japanese. Those include high-level pitch range (Graham 2014), vocal stereotypes (Teshigawara 2011), Japanese-specific attitudinal expressions (Rilliard et al. 2009), politeness strategies toward the interlocutor (Yuasa 2008), and so on. Some Japanese voice quality can be misinterpreted cross-culturally (Shochi et al. 2009) but there is no research testing how these aspects can affect the intelligibility of L2 English. Mixed methods research is proposed to test 1) whether the paralinguistic properties could affect the intelligibility of L2 English, 2) whether learners’ awareness about sociophonetic aspects corresponds to their performance, 3) whether students’ performance can be improved after some intervention. Through a baseline questionnaire, focus groups and videotapes we analyzed 18 undergraduate university students in Japan. Students’ performances were evaluated by several native English speakers. L2 instructional intervention included gestural education (Acton 2016). The analyses were conducted in terms of learners’ baseline questionnaires, acoustic properties such as pitch range, body language, native speakers’ judgments, and learners’ self-assessment.
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