The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of the listeners and speakers native language on the transcription of words and sentences. Twelve native English speakers and 12 native Spanish speakers listened to 60 words and 30 sentences produced in English and transcribed what they heard presented. Stimuli were produced by a native English speaker, a native Taiwanese speaker, and a native Spanish speaker. Results indicated that native English-speaking listeners had statistically significant higher transcription scores on words and sentences compared to native Spanish-speaking listeners. Both listener groups had the highest transcription scores on items produced by the native English speaker and had the lowest transcription scores on items produced by the native Spanish speaker. Further research should be conducted to fully evaluate the importance of the listeners native language on understanding accented speech.
Influence of Listener and Speaker Language on the Transcription of Utterances
Several studies conducted on the perception of accented speech report that listeners generally have greater difficulty understanding non-native English speakers compared to native English speakers (Burda, Casey, Foster, Pilkington, & Reppe, 2006; Burda, Scherz, Hageman, & Edwards, 2003; Munro & Derwing, 1995a, 1995b), in part because individuals tend to have difficulty comprehending accented speech when different sounds occur than those that are in the listeners native language (Best, McRoberts, & Goodell, 2001). Listeners have typically been native English-speaking college-aged adults (Munro & Derwing, 1995a, 1995b), older adults (Burda et al., 2003; Burda et al., 2006), residents of assisted living facilities (Burda & Hageman, 2005), and adults with acquired neurogenic disorders (Brooks, Meier, Burda, & Hageman, 2005; Burda, Brace, & Hosch, 2007; Burda, Hageman, Brousard, & Miller, 2004). In several studies, participants have transcribed utterances produced by native and non-native English speakers (Burda et al., 2003; Burda et al., 2006; Burda & Hageman, 2005; Munro & Derwing, 1995a, 1995b). In other investigations, participants have performed identification tasks, such as identifying mispronunciations spoken in English (Schmid & Yeni-Komshian, 1999) and identifying printed words or sentences that matched speakers utterances (Brooks et al., 2005; Burda et al., 2004).
Research on the understanding of accented speech has also included listeners who are non-native English speakers (Bradlow & Pisoni, 1999; Brennan & Brennan, 1981; Fayer & Krasinski, 1987; Major, Fitzmaurice, Bunta, & Balasubramanian, 2002; Munro, Derwing, & Morton, 2006; Ryan & Carranza, 1975). Recent reports indicate non-native English-speaking participants may perform better on listening comprehension tasks if they share the same language as the speaker; however, this trend is inconsistent (Major et al., 2002; Munro, Derwing, & Morton, 2006). These results may be in part due to the occurrence of a "matched inter-language speech intelligibility benefit" (p. 1606) that occurs when non-native speakers and listeners share a native language (Bent & Bradlow, 2003). Similarities in the sound structure of the shared language, such as phonetic and phonological composition, contribute to this phenomenon. It is suggested that this benefit also exists when speakers and listeners do not share a native language. High-proficiency non-native speakers can be perceived to be equally or more intelligible than speakers of the listeners native language, demonstrating a "mismatched inter-language speech intelligibility benefit" (Bent & Bradlow, p. 1606).
Such studies highlight important issues in determining variables that facilitate improved comprehension of accented speech. Familiarity is one factor that has been found to aid native and non-native English speakers understanding of English produced by speakers with accents. Familiarity can take many forms, including familiarity with the topic (Chiang & Dunkel, 1992; Gass & Varonis, 1984), familiarity with non-native speech in general (Gass & Varonis), and familiarity with specific speakers accents (Burda, Overhake, & Thompson, 2005; Flowerdew, 1994; Major et al., 2002). It is important to note that the dialect spoken within a particular language can significantly affect both native and nonnative speakers comprehension (Eisenstein & Verdi, 1985; Major et al., 2002), with performance possibly related to the above mentioned speech intelligibility benefits.
Although previous studies have included both native and non-native speakers as participants, further research is essential. With increasing numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse individuals residing in the United States to study, work, and live (Garcia & Gonzalez, 1995), it is necessary to investigate how well non-native English-speaking individuals understand others who speak with an accent. In an effort to further address this area of study, the following research questions were asked: Does native language of the listener affect the accuracy of word and sentence transcriptions? Does native language of the speaker affect the accuracy of word and sentence transcriptions? Is there an interaction between the native language of the listener and of the speaker?
Influence of Listener and Speaker Language on the Transcription of UtterancesInfluence of Listener and Speaker Language on the Transcription of Utterances
Sarah Sproull, Angela Burda, Suzanne Ciechanowski, Sarah Sproull, Alison Corbett, Stephanie Jones, Cedar Falls