L2 speech learning research
- The 2005 talk is is entitled "The origins & development of the Speech Learning Model".
This keynote was presented in 2005 at the 1st ASA Conference on L2 Speech Learning
in Vancouver, BC, out of which was derived a Fetshirt presented to me on the occaision
of my retirement: O.S. Bohn & M.J. Munro, Eds. (2007) Language experience in second
language speech learning: In Honour of James Emil Flege. 2007, Absterdam, John
- The 2010 talk is entitled "Age" effects on second language acquisition". It was
presented in Poznań, Poland at the New Sounds conference held there.
- The 2012 talk entitled "The role of input in second language learning" examines in some
detail the role of input. From the vantage point of six years of retirement, I reached a
conclusion that was decades in the making: namely, the single most important influence
on overall degree of success in pronouncing and perceiving an L2 is the amount and
kind of input the learner has received.
- The 2016 talk is entitled The role of phonetic category formation in second language
speech acquisition. It was presented at the Eighth International Conference on Second
Language Speech held in June of 2016 at Aarhus University in Denmark.
What you will find here
Here you can download reports of research carried out at the Biocommunication
Research Laboratory of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The research was
supported by grants from the National Institute of Deafness & Other Communicative
Two notes on terminology. I nearly always used the term "L2 learning" rather than "L2 acquisition" because I
consider learning to be an ongoing process without a clear endpoint. I usually say "L2 learner" rather than
"bilingual" for the following reason. It is clear that with sufficient use and experience most (all?) L2 learners
become bilinguals but it is not clear when this magic moment occurs. Simply defining as "bilingual" any
individual who uses two languages on a regular basis is insufficient given that an L2 can be learned as a
"special purpose" language (e.g., the English monolingual who learns 20 Spanish words in order to wait tables
in a Mexican restaurant).
One element lacking in the research presented here are accurate measurements (as
opposed to estimates, or or just plain guesses) of the quantity and quality of L2 input.
We did manage to demonstrate, however, that participants who reported using the L2
relatively often and the L1 relatively infrequently had better outcomes than infrequent
L2-frequent L1 users. I continue to think that input is the single most important
determinant of success in learning L2 speech. It will remain for others to determine if this
is indeed true.
The strength and degree of activation of a bilingual's L1 and L2 vary as a function of overall use and the
contexts of language use. The L1 speech system influences that of the L2, and vice versa. The strengh and
directionality of such effects may vary, at least to some extent, on patterns of language use. Accepting this
reality adds an entirely new dimension to L2 speech research which our work in Birmingham hardly touched.
Discussion. This section is intended to a place for visitors to this site to ask questions publicly or to provide
their own take on various issues relating to L2 speech learning.
Chapters. This section presents articles that appeared in published books, either before or after the year
2000. To download, click on the boldfaced characters, which indicates the name of the author(s) and date of
publication. Seven chapters are especially relevant to how the Speech Learning Model (SLM) evolved over
time. These are marked with the keyword "SLM".
Journal articles. The next four sections contain articles that were published in peer-reviewed journals. They
have been grouped according to year of publication.
Most of the work made available on this site deals with phonetic aspects of second
language (L2) learning. The work presented here may be of interest to those who study
foreign language (FL) learning in the classroom. However, it is important to note that our
L2 research focused on individuals learning an L2 naturalistically, often after immigrating
to a country where the L2 was needed for everyday use and, indeed, economic survival.
Given the necessity of learning the L2 by most of our research participants, we didn't
find it useful to explore the role of motivation on speech learning. That topic is, of
course, of greater interest to those who study FL acquisition in the classroom.
|Download second-language (L2) speech research
Conferences. This section contains articles published in the proceedings of special conferences or at the
annual meetings of a professional society such as the Acoustical Society of America. Also posted here are
four actual conference presentations that may be of interest to those wanting to learn more about the SLM: