Second Language Learners' Phonological Awareness and Perception of Foreign Accentedness and Comprehensibility by Native and Non-native English Speaking EFL Teachers

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Shahid Beheshti University

2 Ferdowsi University of Mashhad


Phonological awareness has been defined as the speaker’s sensitivity to the phonological characteristics of a language. The present study is aimed at exploring the relationship between Iranian EFL learners’ explicit phonological awareness, their foreign accentedness and speech comprehensibility as perceived by native and non-native English-speaking EFL teachers. To determine the relationships, the researchers used a set of tasks that measured 34 EFL learners’ phonological awareness in five domains of rhyming, alliteration or onset, segmenting, blending, and manipulation. They also asked the participants to read a short text which was recorded and later rated for accentedness and comprehensibility on a 9-point scale. Results indicated that there was a significant correlation between the learners’ phonological awareness and perception of foreign accentedness. The same was true about the correlation between phonological awareness and speech comprehensibility. Furthermore, a strong positive correlation was found between foreign accentedness and comprehensibility, suggesting that foreign accentedness could affect comprehensibility of L2 speech. The findings suggest that pedagogical strategies that highlight formal properties of language be employed in second language classrooms to reduce learners’ foreign accent and increase their speech comprehensibility. 


Alegria, J., Pignot, E., & Morais, J. (1982). Phonetic analysis of speech and memory codes in beginning readers. Memory & Cognition, 10(5), 451–456.
Ali, A. Z. M. & Segaran, K. (2013). 3D talking-head mobile app: A conceptual framework for English pronunciation learning among non-Native speakers. English Language Teaching, 6(8), 66–76. doi:10.5539/elt.v6n8p66
Amini, A. (2003). Phonological awareness: Its development and contribution to reading and spelling achievement. Cahiers Linguistiques d’Ottawa, 31, 19–51.
Anderson, N. J. (2013). ACTIVE skills for reading 2 (3rd ed.). Utah: Pearson Publishing. 
Atli, I. & Bergil, A. (2012). The effect of pronunciation instruction on students’ overall speaking skills. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 3665–3671.
Baker, A. (2013). Integrating fluent pronunciation use into content-based ESL instruction: Two case studies. In J. Levis, & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th pronunciation in second language learning and teaching conference (pp. 245–254). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.
Baker, A., & Murphy, J. (2011). Knowledge base of pronunciation teaching: Staking out the territory. TESL Canada Journal, 28(2), 29–50.
Bruce, D. J. (1964). The analysis of word sounds. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 34, 158–170.
Caspers, J. (2010). The influence of erroneous stress position and segmental errors on intelligibility, comprehensibility and foreign accent in Dutch as a second language. Linguistics in the Netherlands, 27, 17–29.
Cassady, J. C., Smith, L. S., & Huber, L. K. (2005). Enhancing validity in phonological awareness assessment through computer-supported testing. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 10(18), 1–13.
Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. M., & Goodwin, J. M., & Griner, B. (2010). Teaching pronunciation: A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Cisero, C., & Royer, J. (1995). The development and cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 275–303.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (1997). Accent, intelligibility, and comprehensibility: Evidence from four L1s. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 20, 1–16.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2005). Second language accent and pronunciation teaching: A research-based approach. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 379–397.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2009). Comprehensibility as a factor in listener interaction preferences: Implications for the workplace. Canadian Modern Language Review, 66, 181–202.
Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., & Carbonaro, M. D. (2000). Does famous speech recognition software work with ESL speech? TESOL Quarterly, 34, 592–603.
Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., & Wiebe, G. E. (1998). Evidence in favor of a broad framework for pronunciation instruction. Language Learning, 48, 393–410.
Derwing, T. M., & Rossiter, M. (2003). The effects of pronunciation instruction on the accuracy, fluency, and complexity of L2 accented speech. Applied Language Learning, 13, 1–17.
De Santos Loureiro, C., Braga, L. W., do Nascimento Souza, L., Nunes Filho, G., Queiroz, E., & Dellatolas, G. (2004). Degree of illiteracy and phonological and phonological skills in unschooled adults. Brain and language, 89(3), 499–502.
Doughty, C., & Williams, J. (1998). Pedagogical choices in focus on form. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp. 197-261). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Durgunoglu, A. Y., Peynircioglu, Z., & Mir, M. (2002). The role of formal definitions in reading comprehension of bilingual students. In R. Heredia & J. Altarriba (Eds.), Sentence processing in bilinguals (pp. 299–316). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
Elliot, A.R. (1995). Field independence/dependence, hemispheric specialization, and attitude about pronunciation accuracy in Spanish as a foreign language. The Modern Language Journal, 79(iii), 356–371.
Ellis, R. (2008). The study of second language acquisition (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fathman, A. (1975). The relationship between age and second language productive ability, language learning, 25, 245–253.
Flege, J. E., Munro, M. J., & MacKay, I. R. A. (1995). Factors affecting the strength of perceived foreign accent in a second language. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 3125–3134.
Felps, D., Bortfeld, H., & Gutierrez-Osuna, R. (2009). Foreign accent conversion in computer-assisted pronunciation training. Speech communication51(10), 920–932.
Fraser, H. (2000). Coordinating improvements in pronunciation teaching for adult learners of English as a second language. Canberra: DETYA (Australia National Training Authority Adult Literacy Project) Retrieved from
Gaballa, H. (2013). Testing the metaknowledge of phonological components among English first-year students at Taif University. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (IOSR-JHSS), 18(2), 84-95. Retrieved from
Galaczi, E., Post, B., Li, A., & Graham, C. (2011). Measuring L2 English phonological proficiency: Implications for language assessment”. In Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics, The impact of Applied Linguistics (pp. 67–72). Retrieved from
Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation. London: Edward Arnold.
Gass, S. M., & Selinker, L. (2008). Second language acquisition: An Introductory Course. New York: Routledge.
Gatbonton, E., Trofimovich, P., & Magid, M. (2005). Learners' ethnic group affiliation and L2 pronunciation accuracy: a sociolinguistic investigation. TESOL Quarterly, 39, 489–512.
Giambo, D. A., & McKinney, J. D. (2004). The Effects of a Phonological Awareness Intervention on the Oral English Proficiency of Spanish‐Speaking Kindergarten Children. TESOL Quarterly38(1), 95–117.
Gilakjani, A.P. (2012). A study of factors affecting EFL learners' English pronunciation learning and the strategies for instruction. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(3), 119–128.
Gilner, L. (2008). Pronunciation instruction: A review of methods and techniques. Journal of School of Foreign Languages, 35, 93–108.
Goswami, U., & Bryant, P. (1990). Phonological skills and learning to read. London: Erlbaum.
Gottardo, A., Yan, B., Siegel, L., & Wade-Woolley, L. (2001). Factors related to English reading performance in children with Chinese as a first language: More evidence of cross-language transfer of phonological processing. Journal of Educational Psychology, 9, 530–542.
Grey, S., & van Hell, J. G. (2017). Foreign-accented speaker identity affects neural correlates of language comprehension. Journal of Neurolinguistics42, 93–108.
Hahn, L. D. (2004). Primary stress and intelligibility: Research to motivate the teaching of suprasegmentals. TESOL Quarterly, 38(2), 201–223.
Hester, E., & Hodson, B. (2009). Metaphonological awareness: Enhancing literacy skills. In P. Rhyner (Ed.), Emergent literacy and early language acquisition: Making the connection (pp. 78–103). New York: Guilford Publications.
Housen, A., & Pierrard, M. (Eds.). (2005). Studies in language acquisition 25: Investigations in instructed second language acquisition. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Huang, H. S., & Hanley, J. R. (1994). Phonological awareness and visual skills in learning to read Chinese and English. Cognition, 54, 73–98.
Hurford, J. R. (1991) The evolution of the critical period for language acquisition, Cognition, 40, 159–201.
Incera, S., Shah, A. P., McLennan, C. T., & Wetzel, M. T. (2017). Sentence context influences the subjective perception of foreign accents. Acta psychological, 172, 71–76.
Isaacs, T. (2008). Towards defining a valid assessment criterion of pronunciation proficiency in non-native English speaking graduate students. Canadian Modern Language Review, 64, 555–580.
Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language: New models, new norms, new goals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jenkins, J. (2005). Implementing an international approach to English pronunciation: The role of teacher attitudes and identity. TESOL Quarterly, 39, 535-543
Jesney, K. (2004). The use of global foreign accent rating in studies of L2 acquisition. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Language Research Centre Reports.
Kamiyama, T. (2004, March). Perception of foreign accentedness in L2 prosody and segments: L1 Japanese speakers learning L2 French. Proceedings of Speech Prosody 2004 (pp. 721–724). Nara, Japan: ISCA. Retrieved from
Kang, O. (2010). Relative salience of suprasegmental features on judgments of L2 comprehensibility and accentedness. System38(2), 301–315.
Kang, O., Rubin, D., & Pickering, L. (2010). Suprasegmental measures of accentedness and judgments of language learner proficiency in oral English. The Modern Language Journal, 94(4), 554–566.
Kelly, L. (1969). 25 centuries of language teaching. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
Keshavarz, M. H., & Ingram, D. (2002). The early phonological development of a Persian-English bilingual child. International Journal of Bilingualism 6(3), 255–269.
Kirkova-Naskova, A. (2010). Native speaker perception of accented speech: The English pronunciation of Macedonian EFL learners. Research in Language, 8, 41–61. 
Ladegaard, H. J. & Sachdev, I. (2006). I like the Americans… However, I certainly don't aim for an American accent: Language attitudes, vitality and foreign language learning in Denmark. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 27(2), 91-108.
Lado, R. (1957). Linguistics across Cultures. CSU, Chico: Univ. of Michigan Press.
Lenneberg, E. (1967). Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Wiley.
Lev-Ari, S., & Keysar, B. (2010). Why don’t we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(6), 1093–1096.
Levis, J. M. (2006). Pronunciation and the assessment of spoken language. In R. Hughes (ed.), Spoken English, TESOL and applied linguistics: Challenges for theory and practice, pp. 245–270. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lightbrown, P., & Spada, N. (2010). How languages are learned (3rd ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Lindamood, C., & Lindamood, P. (1979). Lindamood auditory conceptualization test. New York: Teaching Resources Corporation.
Long, M. H. (1990) Maturational constraints on language development, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 12, 251–285.
Long, M., & Robinson, P. (1998). Focus on form: Theory, research, and practice. In C. Doughty, & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lord, G. (2005). (How) Can we teach foreign language pronunciation? On the effects of a Spanish phonetics course. Hispania, 88, 557–567.
MacIntyre, P. D. (2007). Willingness to communicate in the second language: Understanding the decision to speak as a volitional process. Modern Language Journal, 91(4), 564–576. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2007.00623.x
Mattingly, I. G. (1972). Reading, the linguistic process and linguistic awareness. In J. Kavanagh, & I. Mattingly (Eds.), Language by ear and by eye (pp. 133–147). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
McBride-Chang, C., Bialystok, E., Chong, K., & Yanping, L. (2004). Levels of phonological awareness in three cultures. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 89, 93–111.
McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Menzer, K. (2017). Phonological awareness and foreign Accent: A handbook for German EFL Teachers. Master's Projects and Capstones. 637. Retrieved from
Metsala, J. L. (1999). Young children’s phonological awareness and nonword repetition as a function of vocabulary acquisition. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 91, 3–19.
Mirhassani, A. (2003). A Contrastive Analysis of Persian and English Parts of Speech. Tarbiat Modarres University: Tehran.
Mora, J. C., Rochdi, Y., Kivistö-de Souza, H. (2014). Mimicking accented speech as L2 phonological awareness. Language Awareness, 23, 57-75. 
Morais, J., Cary, L., Alegria, J., & Bertelson, P. (1979). Does awareness of speech as a sequence of phones arise spontaneously? Cognition, 7(4), 323–331. (79)90020-9
Moyer, A. (2007). Do language attitudes determine accent? A study of bilinguals in the U.S.A. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 28, 502–518.
Munro, M. J. (2011). Intelligibility: Buzzword or buzzworthy? In. J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the 2nd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, (pp.7–16), Ames, IA: Iowa State University.
Munro, M. & Derwing, T. (1995). Foreign accent, comprehensibility, and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners. Language Learning, 45(1), 73–97.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (1999). Foreign accent, comprehensibility, and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners. Language Learning, 49(Supp. 1), 285–310.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (2001). Modeling perceptions of the accentedness and comprehensibility of L2 speech: The role of speaking rate. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 451–468.
Munro, M. J., Derwing, T. M., & Morton, S. L. (2006). The mutual intelligibility of L2 speech. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 111–131.
Murphy, J. M. (1991). Oral communication in TESOL: Integrating speaking, listening, and pronunciation. TESOL Quarterly, 25(1), 51–75.
Navehebrahim, M. (2012). An investigation on the pronunciation of language learners of English in Persian background: Deviation forms from the target Language norms. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 69, 518–525.
O'Brien, M. G. (2014). L2 learners' assessments of accentedness, fluency, and comprehensibility of native and non-native German speech. Language Learning, 64(4), 715–748.
Pantos, A. J., & Perkins, A. W. (2013). Measuring implicit and explicit attitudes toward foreign-accented speech. Journal of Language and Social Psychology32(1), 3–20.
Park, H. (2013). Detecting foreign accent in monosyllables: The role of L1 phonotactics. Journal of Phonetics41(2), 78–87.
Park, M. S. (2015). Phonological awareness and degree of foreign accent: An exploratory Study. English Teaching70(3), 23–47.
Phakiti, A. (2014). Experimental research methods in language learning. London: Bloomsbury.
Piasta, S. B., & Wagner, R. K. (2010). Learning letter names and sounds: Effects of instruction, letter type, and phonological processing skill. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 105, 324–344.
Piske, T. (2008). Phonetic awareness, phonetic sensitivity, and the second language learner. In J. Cenoz & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Encyclopedia of language and education (2nd ed.), Vol. 6: Knowledge about language (pp. 155–166). New York: Springer.
Piske, T., MacKay, I., & Flege, J. E. (2001). Factors affecting the degree of foreign accents in an L2: A review. Journal of Phonetics, 29, 191–215.
Porretta, V., Tremblay, A., & Bolger, P. (2017). Got experience? PMN amplitudes to foreign-accented speech modulated by listener experience.Journal of Neurolinguistics44, 54–67.
Riccio, C. A., Amado, A., Jimenez, S., Hasbrouck, J. E., Imhoff, B., & Denton, C. (2001). Cross-linguistic transfer of phonological processing: Development of a measure of phonological processing in Spanish. Bilingual Research Journal, 25, 417–437.
Richards, J. C., & Schmidt, R. W. (2013). Longman dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics. Routledge.
Riney, T., Takada, M., & Ota, M. (2000). Segmentals and foreign language accent: The Japanese flap in EFL. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 711–737.
Rogers, C. L. (1997). Intelligibility of Chinese-accented English (Unpublished doctoral dissertation), Indiana University.
Rossiter, M. J. (2009). Perceptions of L2 fluency by native and non-native speakers of English. Canadian Modern Language Review, 65, 395–412.
Saito, K. (2011). Examining the role of explicit phonetic instruction in native-like and comprehensible pronunciation development: An instructed SLA approach to L2 phonology. Language Awareness, 20(1), 45–59.
Samburskiy, D., & Quah, J. (2014). Corrective Feedback in Asynchronous Online Interaction: Developing Novice Online Language Instructors. CALICO Journal, 31(2), 158–178. Retrieved from
Scovel, T. (1969). Foreign accents, language acquisition, and cerebral dominance. Language Learning. 19, 245-253.
Shepard, B., Elliot, N., Baese-Berk, M. M. (2017). Comprehensibility and intelligibility of international student speech: Comparing perceptions of university EAP instructors and content faculty. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 26, 42–51.
Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.
Trofimovich, P., & Isaacs, T. (2012). Disentangling accent from comprehensibility. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 15, 905–916.
Tsurutani, C. (2012). Evaluation of speakers with a foreign-accented speech in Japan: The effect of accent produced by English native speakers. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 33(6), 589–603.
Trude, A. M., Tremblay, A., & Brown-Schmidt, S. (2013). Limitations on adaptation to foreign accents. Journal of memory and language69(3), 349–367.
Venkatagiri, H. S., & Levis, J. M. (2007). Phonological awareness and speech comprehensibility: An exploratory study. Language Awareness, 16(4), 263–277.
Walker, R. (2010). Teaching the pronunciation of English as a lingua franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Warren, P., Elgort, I., and Crabbe, D. (2009). Comprehensibility and prosody ratings for pronunciation software development. Language Learning & Technology, 13(3), 87-102.
Weil, S. A. (2001). Foreign-accented speech: Adaptation and generalization (Unpublished Master's thesis). Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
Williams, G. J., & Wood, C. (2012). Sensitivity to the acoustic correlates of lexical stress and their relationship to reading in skilled readers. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 8(4), 267–280.
Wolter, J. A., & Pike, K. (2015). Dynamic assessment of morphological awareness and third-grade literacy success. Language, Speech, & Hearing Services in Schools, 46, 112–126. doi:10.1044/2015_LSHSS-14-0037
Zhao, J., Joshi, R. M., Dixon, L. Q., & Chen, S. (2017). Contribution of phonological, morphological and orthographic awareness to English word spelling: A comparison of EL1 and EFL models. Contemporary Educational Psychology49, 185–194.
Ziolkowski, R. A., & Goldstein, H. (2008). Effects of an embedded phonological awareness intervention during repeated book reading on preschool children with language delays. Journal of Early Intervention, 31(1), 67–90.