Title

L2 Spanish Listening: Comprehension, Speech Intelligibility, and Text/Listener Characteristics

Subject Area

Second Language Acquisition

Abstract

Listening is a critical skill in successful second language (L2) communication, but due to the highly complex, dynamic nature of this construct, it is arguably the least well understood of all the skills. Listening involves both the ability to decode the speech signal (i.e., speech intelligibility) and the ability to comprehend the intended message (i.e., listening comprehension). Both of these factors are important in understanding how we process aural information, but they are often studied in isolation in L2 research. Moreover, numerous factors, such as text characteristics (e.g., speech rate, length of passage, linguistic complexity, and information density) and listener characteristics (e.g., L2 proficiency, vocabulary knowledge, working memory, and anxiety), are argued to add to the difficulty of L2 listening.

Therefore, in order to (a) determine the connection between speech intelligibility and comprehension and (b) examine the role of certain text and listener characteristics in L2 listening, we empirically investigated the aural ability of 31 university learners of Spanish. Specifically, we examined whether length of utterance, rate of speech, and L2 proficiency impacted speech intelligibility (SI), and whether speech intelligibility played a role in listening comprehension. A repeated measures ANOVA was run on the intelligibility scores, with speed and length as the within-subjects variables and proficiency as the between-subjects variable. Results show that length, speed, and proficiency all affected speech intelligibility. Regression analysis, furthermore, revealed that listening comprehension was impacted by speech intelligibility. This study, therefore, brings clarity to the issue of L2 listening in Spanish in that it empirically suggests that one of the significant reasons L2 learners may experience listening comprehension problems or success is in part due to their ability to decode the acoustic signal, which is in turn influenced by the length of the utterance received, the speed at which the aural passage is delivered, and the L2 oral proficiency of the learners.

Brief Bio Note

Almitra Medina is an Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics at East Carolina University in NC. Specializing in adult instructed second language acquisition (SLA), her research interests include L2 reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, psycholinguistics, aural processing of fast L2 speech, and the implementation of CALL tools in the second language classroom.

Gilda Socarrás, Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics at Auburn University, AL, specializes in L1 acquisition. Her current areas of research interest are in L2 input processing, including listening comprehension, speech intelligibility, and the processing of cognates.

Sridhar Krishnamurti is a Professor of Audiology in the Department of Communication Disorders at Auburn University, AL. His publications encompass the areas of auditory processing disorders, hearing conservation and aids, electrophysiology, and speech intelligibility.

Keywords

L2 listening comprehension, L2 speech intelligibility, Spanish

Location

Coastal Georgia Center

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

4-8-2016 9:40 AM

End Date

4-8-2016 10:00 AM

Embargo

11-30-2015

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Apr 8th, 9:40 AM Apr 8th, 10:00 AM

L2 Spanish Listening: Comprehension, Speech Intelligibility, and Text/Listener Characteristics

Coastal Georgia Center

Listening is a critical skill in successful second language (L2) communication, but due to the highly complex, dynamic nature of this construct, it is arguably the least well understood of all the skills. Listening involves both the ability to decode the speech signal (i.e., speech intelligibility) and the ability to comprehend the intended message (i.e., listening comprehension). Both of these factors are important in understanding how we process aural information, but they are often studied in isolation in L2 research. Moreover, numerous factors, such as text characteristics (e.g., speech rate, length of passage, linguistic complexity, and information density) and listener characteristics (e.g., L2 proficiency, vocabulary knowledge, working memory, and anxiety), are argued to add to the difficulty of L2 listening.

Therefore, in order to (a) determine the connection between speech intelligibility and comprehension and (b) examine the role of certain text and listener characteristics in L2 listening, we empirically investigated the aural ability of 31 university learners of Spanish. Specifically, we examined whether length of utterance, rate of speech, and L2 proficiency impacted speech intelligibility (SI), and whether speech intelligibility played a role in listening comprehension. A repeated measures ANOVA was run on the intelligibility scores, with speed and length as the within-subjects variables and proficiency as the between-subjects variable. Results show that length, speed, and proficiency all affected speech intelligibility. Regression analysis, furthermore, revealed that listening comprehension was impacted by speech intelligibility. This study, therefore, brings clarity to the issue of L2 listening in Spanish in that it empirically suggests that one of the significant reasons L2 learners may experience listening comprehension problems or success is in part due to their ability to decode the acoustic signal, which is in turn influenced by the length of the utterance received, the speed at which the aural passage is delivered, and the L2 oral proficiency of the learners.