December 2007. Volume 2 Issue 3
The Influence of Explicit Phonetic Instruction on Pronunciation in EFL Settings: The Case of English Vowels and Japanese Learners of English
Syracuse University, Syracuse
.Kazuya Saito earned his B.A. degree from Waseda University in 2005 and M.A. from Syracuse University in 2007.
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Japanese learners of English have difficulty in learning English pronunciation, especially in segmental phonology, because they have to learn many phonemes that do not exist in Japanese but do exist in English. However, little attention is given to pronunciation teaching in English education in Japan and to the development of effective strategies to address the problem. Furthermore, although a lot of SLA research has been conducted on L2 speech acquisition (Best, 1995; Best, McRoberts, and Goodell, 2001; Flege 1984, 1995; Flege, Frieda, and Nozawa, 1997; Gass, and Selinker, 2001; Kuhl et al., 1992), very little has been applied to instruction for L2 adult learners (Couper, 2003; Derwing, Munro, and Wiebe, 1997, 1998; Macdonald, Yule, and Powers, 1994). In order to fill this gap, this paper will report on an experimental phonetic study involving 6 Japanese learners of English and show the efficacy of explicit phonetic instruction. Four subjects in the experimental group were given explicit phonetic instruction through computer -generated visual feedback, while 2 subjects in the control group were not. As a means for feedback and evaluation, an acoustic speech analysis method was adopted with the computer software Praat. The present study has two important implications : (1) While all 6 Japanese learners of English continue to struggle with their pronunciation of the English-specific vowel / æ /, explicit phonetic instruction led the 4 subjects of the experimental group to improve their pronunciation dramatically. This improvement was not noted for the 2 subjects of the control group who did not receive explicit instruction ; (2) this activity encourages students to become more aware of their pronunciation than exposure to the natural speech production of English in an immersion setting. In the long run, this activity based on explicit phonetic instruction contributes to pronunciation pedagogies in EFL situations where English is not used on a daily basis and learners can not have regular access to real-life communication with native speakers of English.