Understanding accents: the intelligibility of regional and non-native accents to English as a Foreign Language learners.

01 January 2023 → 31 December 2026
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Language acquisition
    • Phonetics and phonology
    • Synchronic linguistics
accents perception listening
Project description

Listening to a language which is not one’s own native language can be surprisingly difficult, even for advanced learners. This is especially so when the speaker has an unfamiliar regional or non-native accent. While listeners can easily deal with variation in their native language, coping with accent variation in a non-native language is more difficult. In the case of English, with its millions of native and non-native speakers, language learners need to be able to understand a wide variety of accents in English. The aim of the project is to examine to what extent English as a Foreign Language learners experience difficulties when listening to regional and non-native accented speech, which aspects especially hamper intelligibility and how we can train learners on the perception of accented speech in English. To that end, we will conduct an experimental survey examining the listening abilities of Dutch learners of English in Flanders. We will run listening experiments, which will inform us on the perception of phonological variation by non-native listeners, and set up training sessions to enhance learners’ ability to understand accented speech. Through the project, we will gain a deeper understanding of what causes intelligibility problems and how we can remedy these through training, eventually allowing us to better prepare learners for real-life interactions with speakers of a wide variety of accents in English.