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Accent Fossilization in Older Iranian Women in Canada YaldaAhmadvand
Introduction • Aging is an unavoidable fact of human nature • Decline in physical abilities • The effect of age on learning new skills • Decline of abilities in second language learning, based on different presupposition • Younger language learners and success • Relationship between age of acquisition & eventual achievement (Brown, 2007)
Introduction • Lenneberg’s Hypothesis (1967) • Human’s cognitive structure • He cited the CPH (Penfield & Roberts,1959) • Difficulty of acquiring our first language after puberty, based on neuropsychological factors. • Age & success in second language learning • Younger learners vs. Older learners • Relationship between age & success in second language, linked to CPH
Critical Period Hypothesis • Biologically determined period of life • A period of time between birth & the age of puberty • Pronunciation vs. writing skills • It’s also known as Sensitive period hypothesis • Second language learners & level of competence in TL • Fossilized pronunciation
Fossilization • Introduced by Selinker (1972) • Most adult second language learners never achieve native-like proficiency in the TL • Their pronunciation continues to interfere with their ability to communicate effectively • Despite years of language learning and experience with English • They may seem less fluent or less professional • Crucial issue: Fossilized accent might linger
Factors involve in developing clear pronunciation • Age • Native language • Length of time using English • Social pressure • Innate ability • Feedback on pronunciation • Attain the original identity
Length of residence and exposure • Used as a simple & direct measure of exposure to opportunities to learn the language • Immigrants who live in the country for longer period of time: • Higher level of overall proficiency in English • Or in some aspects of English • Higher frequency of using English than people who have been in the country for shorter period of time • Age at immigration associated with English proficiency in adulthood
Analysis of Iranian immigrants’ level of proficiency and accent • The age of arrival to Canada • Amount and type of exposure to Community • Importance of keeping their Iranian identity • Describe Iranian immigrants families
Iranian Immigrant Families • A multi-ethnic land (Kurd,Fars,Gilac,Turk, and Armanian) • Reasons for immigration • The USA, Canada, Australia, & Western Europe
Iranian Immigrant Families • Iranian minority, fastest growing immigrants categories • Sociolinguistics consequence • Prevent them from mixing with Canadian society, & communicating with Canadians • Community of Iranian Immigrant Women • Use of mother tongue, prevent from noticing their accent
The Significance of Accent • Existence of several hundreds mussels for articulation of human speech (Throat, Larynx, Mouth, Lips, Tongue, ..) • Remarkable degree of muscular control • Evidence: After the age of puberty
This study evaluates: • The role of age and identity in learning a second language • And improving accent or pronunciation • Investigate why some older Iranian women in Canada cannot lose their accents • What exposure they have
Participants • Thirty female native Iranian Women • Arrived between 30-40 years old • At the time of testing ranges from 40-60 • Length of residence is at least 8 years • Why Farsi, and Iranian? • Education • First exposure to English • Four MA, Ten college in Canada
Procedures • Tested individually, single1 hour session • Diary about the strategies they used to improve their English learning • Noted about their experiences, insights, disappointments, and frustrations
Procedures • Start : Language background questionnaire • Evaluate use of Farsi & English • Motivation to use English • How long they have lived in Canada? • How old they were? • Their social role (Work, study, Home) • Accent awareness, did something to improve? • Produced sentences to be rated for foreign accent, (recorded)
Raters • Five native English speakers • Tested for normal hearing • All experts in SLA • Trained before starting the procedure
Testing • Repeated 19 English sentences (twice) • Six sets of tongue twisters • Examine the /θ/, /ð/, /s/, /v/, and /w/ • Rating ranges between “very strong `accent”(1), to “no accent” (9) • Voices were recorded • Mean based on: 150 judgments (6 sentences, 5 listeners,5 duplicate judgments) • *interrater reliability was 84.2% (agreement =16/19 items)
Instrumentations • The questionnaire (adapted from ethno linguistic questionnaire by Wharry,1993) • Contains 24 items • Translated to Farsi
Results • Effect of age of arrival & length of residency in Canada in having a foreign accent: • Later the Iranian women had arrived in Canada, fewer years they have lived here • They have stronger foreign accent • This rating didn’t increase sharply • Those participants with an accent close to native accent came to Canada at younger age, or exposed to the language at younger age.
Results • The findings presented in figure 1 & 2 suggest: • The female Iranians’ degree of foreign accent did not increase sharply if they lived in Canada for shorter period of time • Or they arrived in Canada at older ages • There is not strong correlation between the first exposure to the language and degree of foreign accent
Results • The findings show: • The more exposure they have to English speaking community (work, study), less noticeable accents they have. • One exception • Speakers with more native-like accent find it less difficult to communicate in English compare to those with stronger accent • The correlation between difficulty communicating is negatively related to foreign accent rating
Results • Some problematic sounds for Iranians who want to learn English: • /θ/, /ð/, /s/, /v/, and /w/ • Do not exist in Farsi • Remarkable degree of muscular control is required to achieve native like proficiency • It’s hard to achieve native like proficiency: • If these muscles are not adapted to articulate specific sounds until certain age, (age of puberty)
Results • According to the questionnaire & diaries: • Twenty four of the participants were aware of their accents • Nineteen thought it’s important to improve their accents: • Gain confidence • Eliminate career barriers • Improve their professional image
Results • Some didn’t want to lose their accents: • Unwillingness to assume another identity • Lack of confidence • Rejection of native like speech • “Might deceive people about their background and identity” • “Not telling the truth about herself” • “People perceive different things in terms of cultural & behavioral expectations”
Results • Some thought they need to improve their accents because: • To be accepted in the target language society • Find better jobs • Accent prevents them from taken seriously • Face biases, and challenges • Suffer lost opportunities in a society • Native speakers fail to concentrate on the message
Discussion • Whether CPH exist, age should be considered as an important factor • Two outcomes of this study: • First, the participants’ strength of foreign accent in English grew stronger as their age of arrivals in Canada increased • Second, if they have more exposure to the language (work, study), they have less noticeable accents compare to those who stayed at home
Discussion • There are several factors that influence Second language learning: • Age as a key factor in language acquisition • Motivation • Attitude and personality • Dominance of the first language
Age as a key factor in language acquisition • Regarding the critical age for acquisition, acquiring native like pronunciation is achievable until the age of puberty • As Selinger suggests there might be multiple critical/sensitive period for different aspects of language • The period in which acquiring native accent is easier, seems to end sooner than the period leading to the acquisition of grammar
Age as a key factor in language acquisition • There is a correlation between age and the ability to learn a new language • Adults who want to learn a new language, but don’t have enough knowledge about their second language, seem to fall back easier to their first language • Then no progress in the second language
Age as a key factor in language acquisition • The way the participants learned English in school prior to their arrival to Canada is not the efficient way to learn a new language • Krashen mentions the importance of participation in “meaningful interactions in the target language” to be able to acquire a new language.
How motivation affects progress in language learning • Ones who work or study in Canada have less noticeable accent compare to those who stayed at home as a housewife • Learning a language to able to function at work/school is most likely an instrumental motivation • It also can be at least partly an integrative motivator • All participants have their personal interest to become integrated in to the new culture and the new way of living.
How motivation affects progress in language learning • All participants reported that they try to improve their ability to communicate in the new language • Being a housewife might involve fewer opportunities to participate in a meaningful interactions in target language. • Can not conclude being a housewife leads to be less motivated in learning a new language.
Attitude and Personality • Flexibility of personality • Self esteem, and capability to handle culture change • *All the participants in this study put an effort to assimilate into a new culture, and learn a new language • They didn’t find it difficult to adjust to a new culture • Assume they all have positive attitude towards integrating in to the new culture
Dominance of the first language • Some sound are difficult to learn depending on the learner’s nationality • Similarity of L1 sounds to L2 sounds make it more difficult to learn a new sound • At older ages L1 can be more dominating language compared to L2 • Phonetic ability seems to fossilized earlier than the other linguistics skills*
Dominance of the first language • According to the questionnaire: • All participants in this study preserved their first language by using it frequently: • When meeting friends and relatives • Reading Persian books and magazines • Visiting their home country
How to improve fossilized accent • Pronunciation doesn’t receive enough academic attention as other aspects of SLA • It’s a great concern to many second language learners in Canada • Derwing(2003) found out 95% of immigrants would choose to speak like native speakers(if they could) • Foreign accent discrimination • Fossilization, natural & normal stage for many learners • Michael Long(2003) suggests stabilization instead of fossilization • It leaves open the possibility of change and improvements
How to improve fossilized accent • Second language learners seem inflexible to necessary changes • Being successful entails: • Preparing learners to change • Encouraging them to make an actual effort to do so • Carefully analyzing their situation & resources
How to improve fossilized accent • The crucial element in employing a general strategy for dealing with fossilized accent is getting them prepared to make the considerable changes • Inform them how pronunciation, or more specifically intelligibility can be improved by techniques aimed at changing those other behaviors
Recommendations for teachers • Consider that speakers should have acceptable pronunciation • People should understand what they say • Speakers’ English is pleasant to listen to (comfortably intelligible) • Teachers should be well-trained • Provide precise feedback on segmentals and suprasegmentals problem • Suprasegmentals aspects of pronunciation are important to intelligibility
Recommendations for teachers • Ensure to correct prosodic errors beside individual words • Focus on errors which have more effect on intelligibility (ex: sentence stress) • Hahn(2004) declares, sentence stress has significant effect on comprehensibility and intelligibility
Recommendations for teachers • Highlighting elements: • sounds, syllables, stress, and intonation • Encourage them to use intelligible pronunciation outside the classroom • Creating a stronger link between pronunciation and communication • Bringing pronunciation to a level of intelligibility • Learner’s awareness of his/her potential for making their language not only easier to understand, but more effective
Conclusion • This study investigated the correlation between age & accent fossilization • The other factors that can cause accent fossilization • How to improve fossilized accent • By analyzing the participants background information I realized: • Although age is a very important factor in SLA, there are other factors that can influence it
Conclusion • Younger learners are probably more open to learn languages • But adults commitment to work and study in the new country is a strong motivator: • To engage in activities that promote the progress of the language acquisition • Finally, it is concluded that mastering a correct English accent & pronunciation in a second language is a skill that takes an unknown amount of time to obtain.