Error Characteristics of the Perception of Native English Fluent Speech in Hong Kong Undergraduate Students

Simpson Wai Lap WONG
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong
swlwong@ied.edu.hk

Vina Wing Hei LEUNG
The Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong
vwhleung@ied.edu.hk

Abstract

Background:
Engish is one of the most commonly used lingua franca. Many learners of English as a second langauge (ESL) who have received prolonged English training still face difficulties in comprehending fluent speech produced by native speakers. Such difficulties have been shown to be related to various phonological processes (e.g. contraction, elision) that give rise to phonemic reductions in fluent speech (Brown & Kondo-Brown, 2006; Henrichsen, 1984; Ito, 2006). In this study, we examined the types of listening errors made by Chinese learners of English.

Method:
A representative sample of 120 Chinese undergraduate students were tested with a reduced forms dictation test. After self-paced 1 to 3 exposures to each item, the participants were instructed to type the written form of the speech segments into a computer. Spell-check function was provided to control for spelling abilities as a confound.

Results:
The written responses were systematically classified according to a scoring rubric developed by the authors. The listening errors showed a major distortion of the message delivered in the speech segments. This indicated poor use of compensatory strategies in listening comprehension among the Chinese ESL learners. In addition, a relationship between the family size of the errors and the difficulty of perceiving the reduced forms was also found.

Conclusion:
The results show that in-school listening practice in Hong Kong may not provide adequate training on reduced forms and fluent speech perception of native English, suggesting a need for special training on fluent speech to prepare our graduates for a globalized world.

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