Foreign speech accent and comprehensibility: Technology integration to bolster EFL learners’ pronunciation for effective communication
This quasi-experimental research study examines in depth the issues of accent and comprehensibility but also the effects of technology on the accent reduction of Saudi EFL (English as Foreign Language) students at an English Language Institute in a Saudi university. In this study, recorded speeches of students of two classes were first rated for foreign speech accent and comprehensibility by two native, two non-native English listeners and an IELTS speaking examiner at pre- and post-accent reduction program stages. While one class (controlled group) was treated through conventional instruction, the second class (experimental group) got treatment through technology- based accent reduction instruction. It was found that the foreign speech accent interfered with comprehensibility and the phonological factors which accounted for foreign speech accent were both segmental and supra-segmental features. Most, importantly, the study discovered that ubiquitous nature of mobile applications served the EFL students with pronunciation training in the target language anywhere anytime. Lastly, this study recommends a Lingua Franca Core standard of comprehensibility while designing technology-based accent reduction programs specifically for EFL settings.