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My father is a native Spanish speaker. He struggles with English pronunciation, and even though he has studied many English courses, he seems to be stuck. Once I talked with a phonetics teacher, with whom I don't have any contact now, and he told me that if an English learner learns to pronounce well in the early stages (or in any stage) of their learning process, then they would learn more rapidly.

I remember that he told me, that if a person pronounces well a certain word, when someone else says the word, then the brain would recognize and understand the word much quicker than if the person would pronounce it wrongly.

I haven't had luck in finding papers that support this idea. Does anyone have any references to research on this topic?

Thanks a lot for your help.

  • This seems to be the basis of Idahosa Ness's Mimic Method. – kristan Jan 19 '17 at 7:11
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I haven't found much on this topic, except for the paper "Pronunciation Training Facilitates the Learning and Retention of L2 Grammatical Structures" by Ines A. Martin and Carrie N. Jackson (Foreign Language Annals, November 2016).

This paper reports on a study about the impact of pronunciation training on the learning and retention of grammatical structures in German as a foreign language. German has verbs with separable prefixes and with inseparable prefixes. Examples of verbs with separable prefixes include abwaschen, annehmen, aufhören and vorstellen; the prefixes (ab-, an-, auf- and vor-, respectively) are stressed. Examples of verbs with inseparable prefixes include beantworten, erkennen and gebrauchen; the prefixes (be-, an-, auf-, respectively) are unstressed and the main stress is on the second syllable. (See for example Nancy Thuleen's handout about separable and inseparable verbs.)

The study had two groups of students: one that was taught about separable and inseparable verbs only through grammar teaching, and another group was taught about these types of verbs through both grammar and pronunciation. Both groups were tested just after the teaching intervention and 10 days later. The second group scored better in both tests.

However, this is not quite the same thing as facilitating learning (especially word recognition in spoken language) through early emphasis on pronunciation accuracy.

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I'm going to tell the personal story, incidental to be subjective. Excuses in advance! :)

My own background with Korean language (한국어) tells me that fluent, at least good, pronunciation before the start of learning any language, phonetics is the cornerstone of the progress, super important. I'm still struggling with sound changing from one to other within vowels and consonants.

For example: 밑[믿], 옆[엽], 옷장[옫짱], 늦게[늗게] and so on.

As we have all been going through, any language based on the sounds, and then on symbols, not vice versa.

P.S. In my town, there are a lot of newcomers (migrants), some of them, they don't know Russian alphabet whatsoever, and that's not the problem for them to communicate with native speakers.

  • Thanks for your contribution – Vladimir Vargas Jan 18 '17 at 13:54
  • @VladimirVargas welcome! – user83725 Jan 19 '17 at 4:20

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