Third language (L3) phonological development for multilingual learners in the Chinese context
- Dr CHEN, Hsueh Chu
This project aims to answer these two fundamental questions by: a) identifying major pronunciation errors that Cantonese learners have in English and Mandarin; b) investigating the influence of L1 Cantonese of learners on the acquisition of English and Mandarin as either an L2 or L3 acoustically; and c) ...
The policy of “biliteracy and trilingualism”, which encourages Hong Kong citizens to be biliterate in written Chinese and English and trilingual in spoken Cantonese, English, and Mandarin, has been shaping the design and implementation of curricula in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools and has had an impact on language use in Hong Kong since the handover in 1997 (Wang & Kirkpatrick, 2013). Most Hong Kongers have been aware of the urgent need to train themselves to at least a basic functional level of proficiency in their second language (L2) and third language (L3), the level at which L2 and L3 is sufficient for general social and workplace communication. However, it is commonly observed in our daily life that if a Cantonese learner from Hong Kong takes English as L2, his/her pronunciation of three /ri:/would be possibly pronounced as /fri:/, whereas if a Cantonese learner from Guangdong province takes Mandarin as L2 and English as L3, three /ri:/would be possibly pronounced as /sri:/. It seems that one of the most prominent factors people may notice when an L2 or L3 speaker begins speaking is pronunciation. Almost instantly, nonnative pronunciation can be identified. Nonnative pronunciation may have some undesired consequences (Flege, 1995). Listeners may quickly tag the accented speech with labels, such as “slow,” “needing help,” and other descriptions associated with ineffective communicators. Regarding the L3 phonological development for multilinguals in the Chinese context, the following two theoretically and practically important questions should be considered: 1) What is the cross-linguistic transfer pattern of phonological features from L1 to L2 and L3? 2) To what extent does L2 have on the transfer of phonological features to L3 depending on level of language proficiency? This project aims to answer these two fundamental questions by: a) identifying major pronunciation errors that Cantonese learners have in English and Mandarin; b) investigating the influence of L1 Cantonese of learners on the acquisition of English and Mandarin as either an L2 or L3 acoustically; and c) determining how multilingual learners acquire L2 and L3 pronunciation features, focusing specifically on how L1 or L2 of learners interacts with their L3 in the language learning process using meta-phonological awareness protocols. This project is innovative in two aspects: (a) well-rounded evaluation tasks of English and Mandarin pronunciation will be created to diagnose the pronunciation difficulties of learners, and; (b) well-designed recall protocols will be conducted to ascertain the learners’ self-reflection on L2 and L3 pronunciation learning process and experiences. This project will make substantial contributions in theory and practice in multilingual acquisition and multilingual education by clarifying the factors that weigh most heavily on acquisition of L2 and L3 pronunciation of learners and thus add to the significant literature in the field of L3 phonology. The project will help establish diagnostic profiles of L2 and L3 pronunciation of learners. The research findings can also help develop pronunciation teacher training resources in facilitating teaching L2 and L3 pronunciation and linking English and Mandarin language teachers together to explore and solve pronunciation problems of L1 Cantonese learners.
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