The Effects of Speaker’s Accent on Listening Comprehension Tests

Burcin Kagitci Yildiz

Abstract


Traditionally, native speakers have been considered as the most reliable source of linguistic data (Chomsky, 1965), although non-native speakers of English already outnumber the native ones (Kachru, 1994), and 80% of the English teachers in the world are non-native English speakers (Canagarajah, 2005). Today, there is a tendency towards including more varieties in the materials covered in the preparatory schools, but most of the students are unfamiliar with many accents when they come to university (due to the lack of access or exposure), which could cause a problem during their departmental or postgraduate studies when instructed by academics from different language backgrounds. This study was conducted with the purpose of investigating whether the speaker’s accent affects students’ performance on listening comprehension tests, and if yes, which accent (native speaker’s or non-native’s) leads to a higher (or lower) level of comprehension. In this study, 120 students with an intermediate level of English proficiency in a university preparatory programme were selected using stratified sampling based on their listening scores in the midterm exam and divided into six groups. Each group listened to 12 short texts from a TOEIC preparation book, rerecorded by three native (American, British and Australian) and three non-native (Turkish, Russian and African) speakers of English and answered 36 multiple-choice type questions, along with filling in a questionnaire that reveals their perceptions of varieties in English. The ANOVA analyses revealed significant results, which calls for more inclusion of English varieties in classes to prepare students better for the real world.

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