Can Late EFL Learners Attain Nativelike Pronunciation? Evidence from Catalan Speakers’ Production of English Low Vowels
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TitleCan Late EFL Learners Attain Nativelike Pronunciation? Evidence from Catalan Speakers’ Production of English Low Vowels
AEDEAN 2008, 31: 573-584 ISBN-978-84-9749-278-2
[Abstract] Catalan learners of English have many difficulties to produce the three English low vowels /ӕ ʌ ɑ/ accurately. This is because, like Spanish, Catalan has only one low vowel /а/ so learners tend to perceive the three target vowels as instances of the same Catalan cetegory (Rallo Fabra, 2005). Flege (1995) predicts that nonnative speakers can produce L2 sounds authentically if they perceive the differences between the native and the target sounds. This paper investigates production accuracy of the three English low vowels by three groups of Catalan learners of English differing in foreign accent (FA) and a group of native English speakers. The data were obtained in an elicitation task in which participants were asked to pronounce a series of monosyllabic words containing one of the three target vowels. Production accuracy was measured quantitatively in terms of spectral data of first and second formant vowel frequencies. Results indicate that learners can produce nativelike instances of vowels /ӕ/ and /ʌ/ but not of /ɑ/. These findings do not really follow Flege’s predictions, since learners were able to produce nativelike instances of two English vowels although these vowels were heard as “similar” to Catalan /a/.