Pronunciation Decay

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Speakeasy
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Pronunciation Decay

Postby Speakeasy » Sun Apr 09, 2017 8:59 pm

Recently, I came across a rather interesting concept in Chapter 11 of “German”, published in 1958 by Henry Holt and Company, authored by Helmut Rehder and Freeman Twaddell:

“Something surprising and discouraging is probably happening at about this stage of your learning German: it is likely that your German pronunciation is getting worse rather than better! But the reason for this undesirable decay is in itself encouraging: you are learning a large number of German words and phrases so well that you are beginning to pronounce them “naturally”, and without thinking of them as a special pronunciation habit. Of course, it is a sign of very important progress that you now know several hundred German words and phrases so well. The only unfortunate feature of this familiarity is the pronunciation result: as soon as a German word or phrase becomes completely familiar to you, you will tend to pronounce it with your deeply ingrained English pronunciation habits – that is, you will tend to treat a familiar German word as if it were part of your ordinary every-day English vocabulary and pronounce it with your ordinary every-day English habits.”

My questions to the members of the forum are:
(a) have you experienced this type of “pronunciation decay” at some point in the early stage of your learning, or
(b) do you find that the vastly greater access to audio recordings, when compared to the period* when the authors made the above observation, simply eliminates the onset of the phenomenon, or
(c) would you care to make any other comments on this topic?

*Addendum: The textbook "German" was published in 1958 and was destined for use in a classroom setting. Although two LP vinyl records (representing 90 minutes of audio recordings) were available for use in the classroom, I have found no mention of the availability of other supplementary materials such as reel-to-reel tapes for use in a language laboratory. In any event, this textbook was published prior to the wide-spread adoption of the audio-lingual method and, furthermore, my own recollection of the period is that very few schools would have had the funds necessary to setting up such facilities. Thus, the "voice model" for the students would have been the instructor plus the vinyl records, assuming that the schools funded their acquisition ... and what about the record player?

Merci à l’avance!
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reineke
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Re: Pronunciation Decay

Postby reineke » Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:42 pm

What does more time buy you? Another look at the effects of long-term residence on production accuracy...

Abstract
This study tested the issue of whether extended length of residence (LOR) in adulthood can provide sufficient input to overcome age effects. The study replicates Flege, Takagi, and Mann (1995), which found that 10 out of 12 Japanese learners of English with extensive residence (12 years or more) produced liquids as accurately as native speakers of English (NS). Further, for both accuracy and native-like accentedness, the Japanese with extensive residence performed statistically better as a group than inexperienced Japanese (less than 3 years of residence). Results with a new sample of Japanese learners in this study found no statistical difference between the Japanese groups with extended versus short LOR although both reported equal levels of daily input in English. Additionally, both groups received statistically lower scores than NS. Moreover, LOR affected the two groups differently: The accuracy and native-like accentedness of words and sentences by Japanese with extensive residence declined with LOR (and chronological age when age of arrival was partialled out), while for Japanese with short residence accent improved with increased LOR (but not age). This study is the first to document a decline in second language production ability with LOR and age in older second language learners ...

The results from the short-residence learners indicate that the initial one to two years of immersion may be the most important for improving phonological ability.

Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... e_speakers [accessed Apr 9, 2017].
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reineke
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Re: Pronunciation Decay

Postby reineke » Mon Apr 10, 2017 6:01 am

a. I would call it forced mispronunciation. Someone else may call​ it interlanguage pronunciation. The wide availability of multimedia cannot prevent it. First and foremost, there's the influence of L1 on L2. Second, most learners don't practice pronunciation beyond the first few exercises. Third, learners wait till they're "ready" to start extensive listening activities. Fourth, most learners rely on written sources which may exacerbate the problem. Fifth, for better or worse, most beginners engage in some kind of forced language production. Finally, while pronunciation should improve with practice, especially in relation to this beginner interlanguage stage, advanced language users may fossilize.

b. You can't quite prevent a.if you're producing language early and in an unstructured manner. I managed to skip this error-ridden phase through long silent periods in two of my languages. Audio-lingual exercises guided my language production in a third language.

c. There's a lot more to pronunciation than a. and b.

You may wish to also take a look at these threads:

How much does accent improve over time?
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3059

Is pronunciation a separate skill?
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=4948
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tastyonions
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Re: Pronunciation Decay

Postby tastyonions » Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:39 pm

In every case in which I have spoken a language in the early stages with someone and then not spoken to that person again until months later, he or she has told me that my pronunciation has improved. So I can't say that I have experienced this yet.
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DangerDave2010
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Re: Pronunciation Decay

Postby DangerDave2010 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 8:18 pm

I used to speak Spanish with a very good castillian accent imitation, a few weeks in Chile, it has degraded into a strange Italian sounding accent (strange since I don't speak Italian at all). Perhaps the wide availability of media makes the phonomenon more noticeble, causing my initial phonetics-conscious accent to be a lot better.
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