Thu-2-10-7 A Comparison of English Rhythm Produced by Native American Speakers and Mandarin ESL Primary School Learners

Hongwei Ding(Shanghai Jiao Tong University), Binghuai Lin(Tencent Technology Co., Ltd), Liyuan Wang(Tencent Technology Co., Ltd), Hui Wang(Shanghai Jiao Tong University) and Ruomei Fang(Shanghai Jiao Tong University)
Abstract: Prosodic speech characteristics are important in the evaluation of both intelligibility and naturalness of oral English proficiency levels for learners of English as a Second Language (ESL). Different stress patterns between English and Mandarin Chinese have been an important research topic for L2 (second language) English speech learning. However, previous studies seldom employed children as ESL learners on this topic. Since more and more children start to learn English in the primary school in China, the current study aims to examine the L2 English rhythm of these child learners. We carefully selected 273 English utterances from a speech database produced by both native speakers and Mandarin child learners, and measured the rhythmic correlates. Results suggested that vowel-related metrics (e.g. nPVI) are better indexes for L2 rhythmic evaluation, which is similar for ESL adults; pause-related fluency is another indication for prosodic assessment, especially for child ESL learners. This investigation could shed some light on the rhythmic difficulties for Mandarin ESL child learners and provide some implications for ESL prosody teaching for school children.
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