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Can non-interactive language input benefit young second-language learners?*

  • TERRY KIT-FONG AU (a1), WINNIE WAILAN CHAN (a2), LIAO CHENG (a3), LINDA S. SIEGEL (a4) and RICKY VAN YIP TSO (a1)...

Abstract

To fully acquire a language, especially its phonology, children need linguistic input from native speakers early on. When interaction with native speakers is not always possible – e.g. for children learning a second language that is not the societal language – audios are commonly used as an affordable substitute. But does such non-interactive input work? Two experiments evaluated the usefulness of audio storybooks in acquiring a more native-like second-language accent. Young children, first- and second-graders in Hong Kong whose native language was Cantonese Chinese, were given take-home listening assignments in a second language, either English or Putonghua Chinese. Accent ratings of the children's story reading revealed measurable benefits of non-interactive input from native speakers. The benefits were far more robust for Putonghua than English. Implications for second-language accent acquisition are discussed.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Terry Kit-fong Au, Department of Psychology, University of Hong Kong, Centennial Campus, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China. tel: (852) 3917 2383; e-mail: terryau@hku.hk

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*

We thank the children, parents, and staff of Laichikok Catholic Primary School in Hong Kong for their support of this research. This work was supported by a grant (HKU7400/06H) from the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong SAR (China). We are grateful to a team of dedicated research assistants for data collection, coding, and analysis, to Kathy Shum and Sing-hang Cheung for helping with data analysis, and to Karen Ravn for commenting on earlier drafts.

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References

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