Native speakers of Japanese learning English generally have difficulty differentiating the phonemes /r/ and /l/, even after years of experience with English. Previous research that attempted to train Japanese listeners to distinguish this contrast using synthetic stimuli reported little success, especially when transfer to natural tokens containing /r/ and /1/ was tested. In the present study, a different training procedure that emphasized variability among stimulus tokens was used. Japanese subjects were trained in a minimal pair identification paradigm using multiple natural exemplars contrasting /r/ and /1/ from a variety of phonetic environments as stimuli. A pretest-posttest design containing natural tokens was used to assess the effects of training. Results from six subjects showed that the new procedure was more robust than earlier training techniques. Small but reliable differences in performance were obtained between pretest and posttest scores. The results demonstrate the importance of stimulus variability and task-related factors in training nonnative speakers to perceive novel phonetic contrasts that are not distinctive in their native language.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics