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Volume 17 Number 3, Autumn 2020, Pages 758-1157 PDF Download

Understanding L2 Speech Production: Implications for Teaching Speaking in EFL Classroom

    On-Soon Lee & Jeongyeon Park

As communicative competence has become a primary goal of English education in many Asian contexts, EFL curricula increasingly focus on students' speaking performance. Considering the demands of cultivating competent L2 speakers, this study investigates factors associated with L2 speaking performance in a Korean EFL college classroom setting. Fifty-one students enrolled in a basic English speaking course participated. They completed five tasks measuring two linguistic variables (i.e., learners' perception of segmental and suprasegmental features), a cognitive variable (i.e., short-term memory), and two language ability variables (i.e., listening comprehension ability and vocabulary size). They also completed a production task (i.e., picture narration). The results indicate that sensitivity to suprasegmental features (e.g., pause, stress, and intonation) and listening ability are associated with the quality of the learners' spontaneous speech production, while sensitivity to segmental information (e.g., minimal pairs), short-term memory, and vocabulary size are not. These findings suggest the importance of explicit instruction in suprasegmental features to improve L2 production as well as perception ability, and that integrating listening and speaking instruction in L2 curricula may be the most effective means of improving learners' speech.

Keywords: perceptual sensitivity, prosody, L2 speech, listening ability, EFL