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Volume 16 Number 2, Summer 2019, Pages 448-767 PDF Download

Differential Effects of FonF and FonFS on Learning English Lax Vowels in an EFL Context

    Farhad Tabandeh, Ahmad Moinzadeh & Hossein Barati

This study investigated the differential effects of focus-on-form (FonF: explicit instruction followed by focused tasks) and focus-on-forms (FonFS: explicit instruction followed by controlled exercises) on learning English lax vowels (i.e., /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /ʌ/) by Persian English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. To this end, 48 learners took a voluntary 6-hour course: the experimental group (n = 17) received FonF, the comparison group (n = 16) received FonFS, and the control group (n = 15) engaged in theme-based discussions with no focus on the target vowels. Learners' pronunciations were elicited in controlled read-aloud and spontaneous picture description tasks and acoustically measured for phonetic accuracy based on tongue positions (i.e., formant 1 [F1] for the height and formant 2 [F2] for the backness of the tongue). Results revealed that whereas both instructional types significantly improved learners' phonetic accuracy (i.e., adjusting F1/F2 values) in the controlled task, only the FonF methodology proved effective in the spontaneous task with large effects in the delayed posttest. The control group revealed no improvement in any tasks. Overall, the results show that FonF instruction may offer substantial benefits to EFL learners to have more accurate pronunciations in EFL speech. The paper concludes with the pedagogical implications of the findings.

Keywords: FonF, FonFS, focused task, formant, lax vowel, L2 pronunciation