The effects and the effectiveness of different types of instruction

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This research aims at investigating how phonological instruction affects the acquisition of phonemic categories in a second language (L2). More specifically, it investigates how the impact of instruction is moderated by (a) the type of instruction (implicit vs. explicit), (b) the type of modality (perception vs. production), and c) the relative learning difficulty of L2 segments (more difficult vs. less difficult).
The phonological target contrasts in this study are the Standard Dutch vowels /ɑ-aː/ and /ɪ-i/, as learned by native speakers of Portuguese. Their phonemically contrastive status in Dutch, but not in Portuguese, renders them problematic for L1 Portuguese learners of Dutch. These contrasts are also expected to present varying degrees of difficulty to Portuguese learners: the /ɑ-aː/ contrast involves both a difference of length and quality, whereas the /ɪ-i/ contrast is essentially one of quality and, except for the lengthening of /i/ before /r/ (Gussenhoven, 1992), both /ɪ/ and /i/ are phonetically short. The presence of additional length cues for /ɑ-aː/ may therefore make this contrast easier to perceive for Portuguese speakers than /ɪ-i/.
Two experiments will evaluate the effects of implicit and explicit instruction on the L2 acquisition of /ɑ-aː/ and /ɪ-i/ by L1 Portuguese speakers with no previous contact with Dutch. Experiment 1 consists of a phonological forced-choice identification task, where Portuguese speakers are asked to categorize Dutch sounds, mapping them onto Portuguese categories, to verify whether the assumptions of difficulty with regard to the two contrasts are correct. Experiment 2 has a pretest-posttest-delayed posttest design, assessing perceptual abilities with an AX discrimination task, and production abilities with a delayed repetition task. This experiment includes type of treatment (implicit vs. explicit) as a between-subject factor, a control group (with narrative input), and a baseline condition with L1 Dutch speakers. Implicit instruction will consist of a High Variability Phonetic Training (HVPT) regimen. Explicit instruction includes meta-linguistic information.
Specific questions for the discussants:
1. Do you believe that the implicit/explicit distinction typically used in grammar can be applied as such to phonological instruction? How might the specificities of the phonological domain impact our understanding of this distinction?
2. Working with A0 participants (complete beginners) may pose a number of challenges, for instance when developing a suitable production task. In terms of the design of the experiment, what would your recommendations be to address such challenges?
3. As for the control group, other studies reporting activities with beginner participants (Brosseau-Lapré et al., 2013; Peltekov, 2020) mention communicative exercises without special focus on pronunciation, but no details are provided. Bearing in mind the A0 level of the participants, what might a suitable activity be for the control group?
Period30 Aug 2023
Event titleThe 32nd Conference of the European Second Language Association
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational