Investigating the impact of Liverpool accent on language learners’ experiences in a study abroad context

Hope, Kathryn
(2021) Investigating the impact of Liverpool accent on language learners’ experiences in a study abroad context. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Accents provide learners of English with an unexpected range of pronunciation in both native and non-native speaker contexts. Few speakers use the standard pronunciation that learners are familiar with. This research project investigates the impact of the wonderfully distinct Liverpool English (LE) accent on English language learners’ listening experiences. Lack of accent familiarity has been identified in previous research as a contributing factor to listening difficulties, yet standard accents continue to be predominant in teaching materials. This thesis assesses the impact of unexpected pronunciation on upper intermediate level learners in a Study Abroad (SA) context. Due to its distinctive features, LE is used as an example to examine how accent may impact students’ communication experiences outside of the class and exam room setting. It investigates the likely sources of problems for learners’ listening in an L2 environment. It explores the quantity and quality of the spoken English that students were exposed to during one-year studying in the UK; the study aimed to understand how learners communicate in the SA experience. This study also investigates how students’ previous ELT experiences prepare them to cope with the realities of listening to language in use. This study uses a mixed methods approach to gather data on students’ initial and ongoing experiences studying and living in the UK. These methods included questionnaires, listening experiences (with rating scales), semi-structured interviews and spoken interaction journals. The findings of this study highlight that accent causes significant listening difficulties for students. Students reported being unable to understand the accents they heard for up to 12 months. Participants stated feeling unprepared and unaware of the vast variety of English accents before they arrived in the UK. Interviews and spoken interaction journals highlighted how these difficulties impacted language use; students spent over half their time communicating in their L1 and reported that LE affected their confidence in using English. These findings indicate that the LE accent is directly impacting students’ ability and confidence communicating with other English speakers. Importantly, it is having an impact on how much English students are able or comfortable to use when they arrive in Liverpool. This study may support the future design and use of listening materials in ELT. This research is likely to contribute to the development of teacher training and learning policies. The conclusions highlight that raising awareness of the variation in English pronunciation and greater exposure to language in use may improve students’ ability and confidence communicating in an L2 environment.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of the Arts
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 13 May 2022 19:21
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:05
DOI: 10.17638/03153108