Can motivation facilitate L1 English-L2 Spanish learners' acquisition of L2 phonology?
Gibney-Desmaison, Marion Rebecca
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Phonology is one of the most difficult aspects of a second language (L2) for learners to fully acquire, yet pronunciation of sounds that are similar across languages is rarely addressed in L2 Spanish classes. If two sounds are very similar between two languages, they are actually more difficult for learners to differentiate. How does learner motivation affect the acquisition of L2 sounds that are similar to the first language (L1)?;The present study investigates the connection between student motivation toward learning a foreign language and student L2 accent production. Ten L1 English-L2 Spanish learners from two different (fourth- and fifth-semester) Spanish classes were recorded as they read the paragraph and repeated the target-language vowels after the researcher. Participants were picked from these two classes in order to use learners with similar levels of proficiency but different levels of motivation. A simple Spanish paragraph was constructed using Spanish-English cognates found in a first-semester Spanish textbook, such that the target vowels appeared in stressed syllables in Spanish and differed between the two languages (example: family/familia ['fae- I-li] / [fa-'i-lia]). Participants then completed a modified Attitude/Motivation Test Battery.;The target vowels were segmented in Praat in order to identify the formants and compare the size of the vowel space produced by high-motivation vs. low-motivation students. Data analysis found that although there was not a significant difference in the levels of motivation for each of the participant groups, reported motivation did present in the expected direction. Acoustic analysis of participants' L2 Spanish vowel productions found that high-motivation students correctly produced more tense vowels, as compared to low-motivation students who produce more lax vowels. This analysis also revealed that vowels produced in isolation were more target-like than those produced within the Spanish paragraph.;Results suggest that higher reported motivation is associated with a tenser, more target-like production of L2 Spanish vowels. This pattern supports the idea that student motivation facilitates the acquisition of the Spanish vowel system among native English speakers, and addresses a gap in the relevant literature, which has not yet investigated the relationship between learner motivation and the acquisition of L2 phonology.