Individual differences and phonetic aptitude in the earliest stages of L2 acquisition

Abstract

Most learners of a foreign language (L2) struggle to acquire a native-like accent. We explored how a training study of learning consonant clusters at the very onset of the L2 acquisition can inform us about L2 learning in general and individual differences in particular. Dutch native (L1) speakers were trained on Slovak words with consonant clusters. In the session following training, participants were tested on a battery of L2 perception and production tasks. The battery of tests was repeated twice more with one week between each session. An additional battery of control tests was used to test participants’ L1 skills. Participants showed considerable individual differences across all L2 tasks, stable across sessions. Two participants showed L2 production performance that fell within 2 standard deviations of the mean ratings obtained for an L1 speaker. The mispronunciation detection task was the only perception task, which significantly predicted production performance in the final session.


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