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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

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segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2015

"Once you have been speaking a second language for years, it’s too late to change your pronunciation"

David Nguyen, originally from Vietnam, moved to Canada in 1980, a time when many Vietnamese people were fleeing their country. David was an engineer and, although it took a long time and a lot of hard work, his credentials were eventually recognized, and he was hired in a large engineering firm. His professional skills were very strong, but his employers often complained that they had difficulty understanding him, despite the fact that he had taken several ESL courses when he first arrived and had a good grasp of both spoken and written English. The problem, as they put it, was his “heavy accent.” Sixteen years after his arrival in Canada, David enrolled in a Clear Speaking course offered two evenings a week for twelve weeks at a local college. Along with his classmates, he received instruction intended to make him more intelligible. On the first night, the students were invited to participate in a study that would entail collecting samples of their English pronunciation at the beginning and end of the course. Like David, the other students had all been in Canada for extensive periods of time; the average length of stay was ten years. They were all well educated and ranged from high intermediate to very advanced in terms of English proficiency. Each student agreed to record speech samples in the first and last weeks of the course; they were offered an honorarium at the end of the study.

What the Research Says

What could David, after 16 years of living in an English-speaking city in Canada, realistically expect from thirty-six hours of instruction over twelve weeks? The conventional wisdom about immigrants like David is quite discouraging. A widespread assumption is that he would have fossilized, a term coined by Selinker (1972) to describe the process undergone by a second language (L2) speaker who is unlikely to show improvement in certain forms of the target language, regardless of instruction. Selinker’s proposal is supported by a number of early pronunciation studies. Oyama (1976), for instance, examined the pronunciation of 60 Italian immigrants to the United States. Their ages on arrival ranged from six to twenty years, and they had lived in the U.S. for five to eighteen years. Two linguistically trained judges assessed their accentedness on a five-point scale. Oyama found that the immigrants who arrived at later ages had much stronger foreign accents than those who had come at an earlier age. Interestingly, length of time in the U.S. made no significant difference to degree of accentedness. Oyama concluded that pronunciation instruction in an L2 should take place when learners are young. Her finding has often been interpreted as indicating that older learners don’t benefit from pronunciation instruction; in other words, they have “fossilized.”

Another interpretation of fossilization is connected to the length of time an L2 learner has spent in the target language community. Research on naturalistic development of L2 pronunciation patterns has shown that experience in the second language environment does indeed have some impact on pronunciation, even though it is quite small. Moreover, most changes in the direction of the target language tend to occur within the first year in the second language environment (Flege, 1988; Munro & Derwing, 2008). These findings, along with those of Oyama (1976), suggest that L2 learners’ productions will fossilize after even a relatively short period of residence in their new language environment. Thus, fossilization has been tied to both age and length of residence. Older learners are considered to have more diffi- culty modifying their L2 speech, and learners who have resided in the target language community for more than a year are considered to be likely candidates for fossilization.

Read on…

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