Learners of a second language often have difficulty perceptually discriminating and producing certain sounds of the target language. For example, Arabic speakers learning English often have difficulty distinguishing between the vowel sounds in ‘cat’ and ‘cut’. The research described in this paper reveals that explicit articulatory training in the production of those particular problematic sounds can improve the ability of learners to perceptually discriminate between them. Simply providing focused aural exposure does not lead to similar improvement. This suggests that for a perceptually difficult subset of second language sounds, explicit instruction in production of the sounds benefits learners and has a place in the pronunciation curriculum. In addition to the implications for teaching pronunciation, the results here make an important contribution towards understanding the complex relationship between perception and production in second language phonological acquisition. These results show that training in production directly leads to improvement in perception.
Linebaugh, G & Roche, T 2013, 'Articulatory training enhances ability to perceptually discriminate problematic second language sounds', paper presented to International Conference on English Pronunciation, Murcia, Spain, 8-10 May.