Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Vol 36, No 2 (2013)

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LEARNING TO HEAR BY LEARNING TO SPEAK: THE EFFECT OF ARTICULATORY TRAINING ON ARAB LEARNERS’ ENGLISH PHONEMIC DISCRIMINATION

Gary Linebaugh, Thomas Roche

Abstract


In this paper we explore English pronunciation teaching within an English as an International Language (EIL) framework, arguing that teaching learners how to produce English phonemes can lead to an improvement in their aural ability. English as an Additional Language (EAL) learners often havedifficulty discriminating between and producing specific sounds of the target language; Arabic speakers, for example, typically have difficulty distinguishing between /p/ and /b/ in words such as pin and bin. The research described here indicates that explicit articulatory training in the productionof two problematic sounds, /p/ and /b/, improves learners’ ability to perceptually discriminate between the two. Following articulatory training, participants were better at correctly identifying which member of a minimal pair they heard (pack or back, for example), whereas simply providing focusedaural exposure to those sounds, as advocated in the non-form focused intuitive-imitative approach, did not lead to similar improvement. This suggests that for sounds that are perceptually difficult for learners, complementing exposure as advocated by the intuitive-imitative approach with articulatorytraining may produce the best results in terms of segmental discrimination and ultimately target language production. We also point to evidence that accuracy in segmental production is especially relevant in the EIL context.

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