Perception and production of the vowel schwa /?/ by Colombian Spanish speakers of L2 English = Percepción y producción de la vocal schwa /?/ por hablantes de español colombiano aprendices de inglés como L2
This study assessed the performances of a group of speakers of English as a second language (L2) when perceiving and producing the English vowel Schwa. In addition, it also aimed to evaluate the hypotheses proposed by the Speech Learning Model (SML), developed by Flege and colleagues (1988, 1992, 1995, 1999, and 2002) which suggest that L2 speakers are capable of creating new phonetic categories for new L2 sounds. Ten L2 speakers, who were living in England, and whose first language was Spanish (Colombian), as well as a group of five English native speakers participated as informants. As it had not been studied before, the effect of orthography was chosen as an important variable that could be affecting the L2 speakers’ perceptual and productive abilities. The study was carried out in three stages. The first stage, evaluated the initial L2 speakers’ perceptual and productive abilities. The second stage consisted of three sessions of pronunciation training. Finally, the third stage aimed to evaluate whether the learners improved in a post-training context. Perception was evaluated by having L2 informants judge several English words that included correct and incorrect pronunciations. Percentages of correct answers were contrasted to the results obtained from the native speakers. Regarding production, acoustic measurements of the quality and duration of the vowels were taken in order to be compared to the native speakers’ productions. Results suggest that most of the L2 speakers were influenced by the orthography of the words; therefore, they perceived and produced the English Schwas as instances of their native vowels. In consequence, as predicted by the SML, a blocking effect in the creation of new L2 phonetic categories took place and no improvement was seen after the training in terms of quality.
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