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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ultrasound speech training for Japanese adults learning English as a second language Tsui, Haley May-Lai


Japanese adults learning English as a second language often have difficulty perceiving and producing English /l/ and /ɹ/ due to specific acoustic and articulatory characteristics of these speech sounds and their absence in Japanese phonology. The current study investigated the effectiveness of using two-dimensional tongue ultrasound to teach pronunciation of these sounds to six adult native Japanese speakers. Each participant had four 45-minute training sessions over a two-week period where visual feedback from ultrasound was used to support the teaching of lingual configurations for /l/ and /ɹ/ in a variety of vowel contexts and word positions. Speech samples from participants were taken prior to training and at a two-week follow-up session. All participants were rated by expert listeners as having more accurate productions of /l/ and /ɹ/ post-training, with the most accuracy seen in word-initial clusters and as word-initial segments. The lateral /l/ showed greater improvement than /ɹ/. Acoustic and visual analyses revealed frequencies and components of tongue positioning closer to native English speaker production in words perceived to be greatly improved between pre- and post-training productions. The effect of training on perception was exploratory and did not yield analyzable results. All participants gave very positive feedback regarding the use of ultrasound for speech training, as determined by a participant questionnaire. The results suggest that incorporating lingual ultrasound in speech training can be beneficial for Japanese adults learning English liquids.

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