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  1. Accent Fossilization in Older Iranian Women in Canada YaldaAhmadvand

  2. 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)

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. Iranian Immigrant Families • A multi-ethnic land (Kurd,Fars,Gilac,Turk, and Armanian) • Reasons for immigration • The USA, Canada, Australia, & Western Europe

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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)

  16. Raters • Five native English speakers • Tested for normal hearing • All experts in SLA • Trained before starting the procedure

  17. 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)

  18. Instrumentations • The questionnaire (adapted from ethno linguistic questionnaire by Wharry,1993) • Contains 24 items • Translated to Farsi

  19. 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.

  20. Correlation between Age of Arrival and foreign accent rating

  21. 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

  22. Correlation between Length of Residence and foreign accent rating

  23. 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

  24. Difficulty communicating and foreign accent rating

  25. 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)

  26. 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

  27. 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”

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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

  37. 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*

  38. 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

  39. 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

  40. 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

  41. 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

  42. 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

  43. 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

  44. 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

  45. 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

  46. 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.