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Perception of Accented Speeches by Japanese EFL Learners and its Relationship with Processing Difficulty


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In this globalizing world, chances for Japanese people to interact with people in other countries have been increasing. Whether they be from English speaking countries or countries where English is not a first language, the medium of these interactions is mostly English, given the widely-accepted status of the language as a common language (lingua franca) in the world. A key issue here is how Japanese people perceive and comprehend non-native varieties of English. Often, non-native English contains varying degrees of foreign accents, and these accents may be a potential obstacle to the successful comprehension of what the interlocutor says, potentially leading to the failure of successful communication. To illuminate what kinds of characteristics in the accented speeches affect L2 speech perception or comprehension, we conducted a truth-value judgment experiment with Japanese learners of L2 English listening to four varieties of L2 English utterances (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai). We measured time taken to make a truth-value judgment, which is assumed to reflect processing difficulty in comprehending a given accented speech, as well as the accuracy score for the judgment and a subjective evaluation of Japanese-English-likeness. The results indicated that the Japanese listeners found Japanese and Korean versions of English utterances easier to understand in comparison with the Chinese and Thai varieties. Close observations of the utterances suggest that the present Japanese and Korean speakers had similarities in segmental and suprasegmental features, which might have led to a facilitation effect for Japanese listeners in understanding these two varieties, while the listeners possibly had difficulty with the Chinese and Thai varieties due to the influence of differentL 1 rhythmic categories.



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