Evaluating Attitudes towards Non-Native Speaker Accents

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In the discussion of English as Lingua Franca the question how a "good" or "bad" accent can influence the perception of the speaker as competent or incompetent is missing.
Kuo (2006:218) argues that English "is the language of which they [NNS, ed.] have to demonstrate a degree of mastery so as to win a place in education and employment in their own contexts and abroad".
So learning English is in most settings not just a matter of being intelligible and successful in communication, but also to demonstrate competence. This paper will discuss how accents influence the perception of NNS as competent.
Given the argument for an ELF syllabus to aid international communication between NNS especially in business settings, this is a relevant issue.

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  • In my experience with NNS speakers in the US and abroad, and as an NNS speaker abroad myself, pronunciation has been essential--not always for understanding/comprehension, but for relationship and conveying personal affinity/investment.

    I have a technique/exercise for teaching English pronunciation to NNS--learners or simply friends--that I have found highly effective. It consists of chatting about how people from different countries or regions sound to each other, including my own mimicry of a couple of US accents that are not my own (my own is plain vanilla=flat midwest), followed by asking the individuals to do their best at making fun of my accent as they hear it. Not just trying to imitate me for correctness, but to *hyper* imitate me--particularly on trouble words (such as 'worldly'). Then I give them enthusiastic feedback, which is easy because this exercise is so much fun. That opens them up to less self-conscious, more effective tries, which lead to greater success.

    (I'm TESOL certified with experience as a TOEFL instructor (primarily to Asians), and I lived in a non-English-speaking environment (working in a related but non-teaching profession) for nine years.)
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  • It's also interesting that even while many recommend learning Chinese language as huge amount of world's population speaks the language, there is still much more larger group of people who at least knows how to read and write English in China than the amount of people in USA (not sure about the source of data). Even if some people's spoken language skills might not be on as good level as somewhere else, it's interesting how widely there are people who know English in the world.

    Still, I hope many more would realize that even in this world, much more people speak Chinese than English. Situation might still be changing as there has been news that many young people in China have difficulties in writing/reading traditional written language as they are used to writing with keyboard. It is interesting how technology has changed the way people talk and communicate and it's no wonder that there will be huge chances in ways how people do things when more and more learn to speak English.
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  • Hi Daniel, Good point. There was work done in that direction at the New Zealand University of Otago 'Evaluating English Accents WorldWide' project: http://www.otago.ac.nz/anthropology/Linguistic/Accents.html
    In fact, much of my methodology was based on this project.
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  • George, thanks for your comment. Is English that necessary? Necessary not, but useful. As the info in the presentation shows, English enables people like no other language to talk to people all over the planet who also speak English. Wherever you go, you will find English speakers who can help, even it is just your second language. Why and when this happened needs a very long answer. (I recommend Jennifer Jenkins' book 'World Englishes') I believe people opt to learn languages that are most useful for them and at this day it is English.
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  • Thanks for insightful presentation. This gave me some new ideas about the importance of learning to speak NS accent.

    One thing that is surely outside of the scope of your study that would be interesting thing to know:
    How different Native Speaker accents increase or decrease understanding of language as there are many many different variations between NS who live in different parts of the same country (even more when looking at the larger scale of speakers around the world)?

    I'm wondering this since I have spoken with several people who say that it's quite difficult to understand spoken English language even if they are NS but are living in the other side of country (in this example, USA but same could be applied to other places where there are many NS of English).
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  • Evaluating Attitudes towards Non-Native Speaker Accents

    1. 1. English as Lingua Franca 612.461 SE: Applying Linguistic Theory (Foreign Language Learning)
    2. 2. Evaluating Attitudes towards Non-Native Speaker Accents Jonathan Nausner June 16, 2010
    3. 3. English as a Lingua Franca
    4. 4. Krachru: three-circle model of World Englishes (1992)
    5. 5. Krachru: three-circle model of World Englishes (1992) Inner Circle Outer Circle Expanding Circle
    6. 6. Krachru: three-circle model of World Englishes (1992) Inner Circle: English as a Native Language (ENL) (GB, USA etc.) Inner Circle Outer Circle Expanding Circle
    7. 7. Krachru: three-circle model of World Englishes (1992) Inner Circle: English as a Native Language (ENL) (GB, USA etc.) Outer Circle: Inner English as a Second Language (ESL) Circle official or unofficial (mostly former colonies) Outer Circle Expanding Circle
    8. 8. Krachru: three-circle model of World Englishes (1992) Inner Circle: English as a Native Language (ENL) (GB, USA etc.) Outer Circle: Inner English as a Second Language (ESL) Circle official or unofficial (mostly former colonies) Outer Circle Expanding Circle: English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Expanding Circle (English learners worlwide)
    9. 9. English spoken today: (Estimated numbers) ENL: 330 million speakers Inner ESL: 430 million speakers Circle EFL: 580 million speakers ...likely more Outer Circle Expanding Circle Source: Jenkins (2009), Wikipedia.org
    10. 10. English spoken today: (Estimated numbers) ENL: 330 million speakers Inner ESL: 430 million speakers Circle EFL: 580 million speakers ...likely more Outer Circle up to 1.8 billion Expanding Circle speakers of English Source: Jenkins (2009), Wikipedia.org
    11. 11. English spoken today: (Estimated numbers) Ratio Native Speakers (NS) to NS Non-Native Speaker (NNS): NNS NNS Source: Jenkins (2009), Wikipedia.org
    12. 12. English spoken today: (Estimated numbers) Ratio Native Speakers (NS) to NS Non-Native Speaker (NNS): 1 to 3 NNS NNS Source: Jenkins (2009), Wikipedia.org
    13. 13. English spoken today: (Estimated numbers) Ratio Native Speakers (NS) to NS Non-Native Speaker (NNS): 1 to 3 NNS NNS Spanish: 4,7 to 1 Mandarin: 2 to 1 Source: Jenkins (2009), Wikipedia.org
    14. 14. English spoken today:   L1 German English L1 Chinese
    15. 15. English spoken today:   L1 German English L1 Chinese English as a Lingua (ELF) or English as an International Language (EIL)
    16. 16. ELF Discussion Supporters of EIL, ELF: Jenkins, Seidlhofer et. al. • Accept ELF as variety of English • Linguistic description of ELF (corpora) • Consideration of implications for teaching and learning of English
    17. 17. ELF Discussion Shifts: • Pronunciation Target: NS-like → not NS-like • Communication Target: NS → NNS → international Intelligibility • Errors → ELF Variants
    18. 18. ELF Discussion Findings: (examples) Jenkins (2000): „th“-sounds: /Ɵ/ and /ð/ not necessary for international intelligibility not included in Lingua Franca Core Seidlhofer (2005): third person singular present tense „-s“ often not used in ELF not necessary for international intelligibility
    19. 19. Criticism
    20. 20. Criticism Kuo (2006): „...a degree of phonological and grammatical inaccuracy can be tolerated in real world communication but a description of such language exchange does not constitute an appropriate model for learning purposes.“ Kuo suggests Native-speaker models as a point of reference.
    21. 21. Research Task
    22. 22. How do different strong accents of NNS influence the listener‘s perception of a speaker? Since most English is spoken in professional environments, it is an important question for teaching which (NS or ELF) should be the learning target.
    23. 23. Hypothesis: Speakers closer to NS are perceived more competent based on their accent.
    24. 24. Method
    25. 25. Online Survey Participants were asked to evaluate five NNS of English
    26. 26. Online Survey Questionnaire design based on: Bayard et. al. (2001) works on Evaluating English Accents WorldWide
    27. 27. Every speaker (order randomized)
    28. 28. 76 questions total 15-20 minutes (incl. sound samples)
    29. 29. Text Sample „There are any number of sayings about the power of the smile. Peace begins with a smile. A smile is the universal welcome. Life is short but a smile only takes a second. All good advice. But it may not be as simple as that. According to new research, if you want to make a good impression when you meet people, it's not just that you smile. It's how you smile.“ BBC Learning English http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/2010/06/100602_witn_smile.shtml
    30. 30. Text Sample „There are any number of sayings about the power of the smile. Peace begins with a smile. A smile is the universal welcome. Life is short but a smile only takes a second. All good advice. But it may not be as simple as that. According to new research, if you want to make a good impression when you meet people, it's not just that you smile. It's how you smile.“ BBC Learning English http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/2010/06/100602_witn_smile.shtml
    31. 31. Speakers Chosen to give a range of differently accented EFL, but with comparable background (to avoid distortions): • German as L1 • male • age 30-60 • postgraduates (exception: Speaker S) • successful ELF-users
    32. 32. Speakers Speaker N LT German, University Speaker O Management, Pharma Speaker U CEO, Consultant, Research & Innovation Speaker B Management, Insurance Speaker S Graphic Designer A speaker in Lingua Franca Core was considered, but dropped because it would create useful results.
    33. 33. Speakers Speaker N LT German, University Speaker O Management, Pharma Speaker U CEO, Consultant, Research & Innovation Speaker B Management, Insurance Speaker S Graphic Designer A speaker in Lingua Franca Core was considered, but dropped because it would create useful results.
    34. 34. 54 Participants Female 46% Male 54% 9% 2% 13% 19% under 18 18-24 25-34 35-54 over 55 57%
    35. 35. Native Speakers 9% 13% English German Other 78%
    36. 36. English Skills (self-evaluation) 4% 13% Native Speaker 24% 7% Excellent Very Good Good Ok Bad 30% Very Bad 22%
    37. 37. Results
    38. 38. Quality of English 1. Speaker N 3,61 2. Speaker U 3,56 3. Speaker O 2,91 4. Speaker S 2,33 5. Speaker B 2,04
    39. 39. 1 2 3 4 5 Education Job Status Class Speaker S Dominant Authoritative Controlling Power Powerful Strong Speaker U Friendly Pleasant Attractive Solidarity Confident Speaker B Intelligent Hardworking Reliable Ambitious Speaker O Competent Competence Educated Clear Understandable Quality of English English Speaker N
    40. 40. Is there a relation between accents and the perception of Competence?
    41. 41. Competence 5 4 3 2 1 0,93 0,98 0,97 1,00 0,99 0,99 Hardworking Educated Intelligent Reliable Ambitious Competent Speaker S Speaker U Speaker B Speaker O Speaker N
    42. 42. Competence 5 4 3 2 1 0,93 0,98 0,97 1,00 0,99 0,99 Hardworking Educated Intelligent Reliable Ambitious Competent Speaker S Speaker U Speaker B Speaker O Speaker N
    43. 43. Power 5 4 3 2 1 0,96 0,97 0,99 0,99 0,99 Powerful Strong Dominant Authoritative Controlling Confident Speaker S Speaker U Speaker B Speaker O Speaker N
    44. 44. Status & Solidarity 5 4 3 2 1 0,98 0,90 0,94 0,58 0,91 0,92 0,97 Education Job Class Friendly Pleasant Attractive Confident Speaker S Speaker U Speaker B Speaker O Speaker N
    45. 45. We can observe a correlation between the speakers‘ accents and their perception as competent and powerful. Speakers closer to NS pronunciation perceived more competent and powerful.
    46. 46. Is there a difference between NS and NNS perception? Do NNS judge harder or lighter?
    47. 47. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Speaker N Authoritative Average Controlling Powerful Strong Friendly Pleasant NS Attractive Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable NNS Ambitious Competent Educated
    48. 48. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Speaker U Authoritative Average Controlling Powerful Strong Friendly Pleasant NS Attractive Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable NNS Ambitious Competent Educated
    49. 49. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Speaker O Authoritative Average Controlling Powerful Strong Friendly Pleasant NS Attractive Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable NNS Ambitious Competent Educated
    50. 50. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Speaker S Authoritative Average Controlling Powerful Strong Friendly Pleasant NS Attractive Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable NNS Ambitious Competent Educated
    51. 51. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Speaker B Authoritative Average Controlling Powerful Strong Friendly Pleasant NS Attractive Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable NNS Ambitious Competent Educated
    52. 52. We can observe a tendency that NS rated the accents‘ competence more positive than NNS, meaning that NNS would judge their peers tougher. But the data is not consistent enough to provide a clear answer.
    53. 53. Is there a difference related different language skills? Do better NNS judge harder?
    54. 54. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Average Speaker N Authoritative Controlling Powerful OK Strong Friendly Pleasant Attractive Good Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable Ambitious Competent Very Good Educated
    55. 55. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Average Speaker B Authoritative Controlling Powerful OK Strong Friendly Pleasant Attractive Good Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable Ambitious Competent Very Good Educated
    56. 56. 1.00 2.00 3.00 4.00 5.00 Education Job Class Dominant Average Speaker S Authoritative Controlling Powerful OK Strong Friendly Pleasant Attractive Good Confident Intelligent Hardworking Reliable Ambitious Competent Very Good Educated
    57. 57. We cannot observe a clear relation between language skills and their perception of NNS.
    58. 58. Conclusion
    59. 59. Our results show: 1. Accents of NNS have strong influence on the speaker‘s perception 2. NS-like pronunciation equals higher competence 3. Results suggest that NNS are tougher in their judgement of other NNS
    60. 60. These results support NS-like pronunciation as a learning target for language teaching and teaching English as a Lingua Franca.
    61. 61. Questions, Suggestions?
    62. 62. Data http://appv3.sgizmo.com/reportsview/?key=88773-316586- b2609de858d6b7305da3c125c046a93d Password: guest Bibliography Jenkins, J. (2002), A Sociolinguistically Based, Empirically Researched Pronunciation Syllabus for English as an International Language, Applied Linguistics 23/I, 83–103. Jenkins, J. (2009), World Englishes. Milton Park, New York: Routledge. Kuo, I. (2006), Addressing the issue of teaching English as a lingua franca, ELT Journal Volume 60/3 July 2006: 213–221. Bayart, D. et.al. (2001), Pax Americana? Accent attitudinal evaluations in New Zealand, Australia and America, Journal of Sociolinguistics 5/1, 2001: 22–49
    63. 63. Thank for your attention

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