L1 English vocalic transfer in L2 Japanese
Knight, Kenneth Jeffrey
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This study looks at four factors that cause transfer errors in the duration and quality of vowel sounds in Japanese as spoken by native English speaking learners. These factors are: 1) words contain a contrastive long vowel, 2) words contain vowels in hiatal position, 3) words are English loanwords, and 4) words are written in Romanization. 34 students at the University of Georgia completed elicited imitation and reading aloud tasks. Results show that roughly 5% of all responses contained vocalic errors. Error rates were highest for minimal pairs that contrast only in vowel length. Similarities in orthography, word origin, and differences in phonological rules were shown to be significant factors in L2 Japanese vowel pronunciation error. A brief survey of the most widely used Japanese textbooks in the US reveals a lack of explicit instruction in vowel length contrasts and Japanese loanword adaptation. Increased explicit instruction in these areas as well as limited use of Romanization may greatly reduce the risk of L2 Japanese vowel pronunciation error.