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Teaching pronunciation: Is explicit phonetics instruction beneficial for FL learners?

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Abstract

Pronunciation instruction has been shown to improve learners' L2 accent in some, though certainly not all, cases. A core component of traditional pronunciation instruction is explicit lessons in L2 phonetics. Studies suggest that Spanish FL learners improve their pronunciation after receiving instruction, but the effect of phonetics instruction has not been directly compared with other pedagogical alternatives. This study reports on the pronunciation gains that first, second, and third year learners (n = 95) made after receiving either explicit instruction in Spanish phonetics or a more implicit treatment with similar input, practice, and feedback. The target phones included a variety of consonants that are problematic for English speakers learning Spanish: stop consonants (/p, t, k/), approximants ([modl12029-gra-1001]), and rhotics (/modl12029-gra-1002, r/). Learners' production of the target phones was measured in a pretest, posttest, delayed posttest design using a word list reading task. Learners in both groups improved their pronunciation equally, suggesting that it might be the input, practice, and/or feedback included in pronunciation instruction, rather than the explicit phonetics lessons, that are most facilitative of improvement in pronunciation.

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