The relationship between phonological awareness, perceived foreign accent as well as perception and production of L2/L3 rhotic sounds in the first year of L3 learning

Thematic Section: Going beyond the initial stages in L3/Ln acquisition research 

L3 acquisition, transfer, L3 development, phonology, syntax, lexicon

Magdalena Wrembel,  Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
Romana Kopečková, University of Münster
Anna Balas, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

Herein, we explore the relationship between phonological awareness, perceived foreign accent, as well as the perception and production of L2/L3 rhotic sounds. A group of 14 L1 Polish adolescents (aged 12 to 13) with L2 English and L3 German were tested at the very beginning of L3 learning (T1) and at the end of the school year (T2). Firstly, their implicit phonological awareness was prompted in a foreign accent mimicry task, in which they told a picture story in their L1 while mimicking half of the story in an accent of the L2, and the other half in an L3 accent. An auditory analysis of the recordings was performed by two independent raters, who calculated a score of target changes of the L2/L3 phonetic/phonological features, as well as a score of awareness of the specific rhotic sounds in the learners’ L2 and L3 separately. Secondly, the speech samples from the accent mimicry task were subjected to an accent rating task performed by 28 L1-Polish raters blind to the purpose of the study. Randomised samples (2 blocks of 28-samples from two testing times plus 4 controls) were evaluated for the degree of foreign accentedness and L1 identification.
The multilinguals‘ performance was further tested in a production task involving delayed repetition in both their foreign languages at the two testing times, in which target words including rhotic sounds in the initial and medial positions were elicited, and auditorily analysed by two phonetically trained raters as target-like or non-target-like. The perception of the L2 and L3 rhotics was tested in a forced-choice naturalness task and scored for accuracy.
The analyses showed an increase over time in the mean phonological awareness score for the L2 and L3, however this trend was not statistically significant. The learners exhibited better accent mimicry in their L2 than in L3. The results revealed weak to moderate correlations between general phonological awareness and production accuracy of rhotics at both testing times.