Achieving Native-like Pronunciation through Phonetic Analysis and Poetry
The problem of identifying phonetic phenomena related to language transfer and correction in second language (L2) production can be approached by conducting broad analyses of the same L2 speaker. This approach is applied in the present study, which investigates errors of pronunciation segmentally (grammatical mistakes, voicing of consonants, and vowel distinctions) and suprasegmentally (intonation and time-gaining techniques) in order to establish the possibility of their being corrected in two recordings of readings by a non-native French speaker. The errors from the first recording were identified, analyzed, and corrected through pronunciation exercises with the aim of raising awareness of the problems to help overcome them on the second reading attempt. The correction methods involved exercises such as reading poetry aloud, pronouncing consonantal segments in various vocalic environments, and reading the target text, syllable by syllable. In addition, the analysis investigates the possibility of phonetic transfer from the two primary languages of the speaker: Bulgarian and English. The researcher is the speaker, the methodological implications of which are discussed, reaching the overall conclusion that it helps to raise awareness of the phonetic background of the errors. Despite the risk of compromising the data through this methodological choice, the results show that a high level of attention and monitoring of the speech alone may be insufficient for internalizing corrections. While grammatical mistakes were corrected most effectively, other segmental and suprasegmental features showed different levels of success. One of the features (the /ɛ/ and /e/ distinction) even exhibited deterioration in the second recording. These examples suggest the presence of “equivalence classification” phenomena and raise the question of the appropriateness of the phonetic exercises for overcoming the errors. Another area of interest was determining the source of errors such as “uptalk”, the reassigning of grammatical gender, word-final devoicing, and elimination of syllable-initial lenis stop prevoicing. Due to the limited amount of data available, it was difficult to draw firm conclusions, but the tendencies observed suggested that the errors might be due to transfer from the speaker’s primary languages, whose influence appeared to be equal. Further research should therefore control for the influence of the two primary languages and extend the scope to include a second post-training recording. Overall, the second recording demonstrated that raised awareness and training helped to achieve acceptable production in the suprasegmental features as well as most of the instances of unfamiliar phones, such as /ʁ/, front-rounded vowels, and nasal vowels.
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