Personality and Ratings of Foreign Accents

  Contributor: Krissa Guevarra | Reviewer:  Ann Choe | Date: 2021-01-06

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Overview of the Study

Perception, pronunciation, and personalities are often tied together in L2 research. Native and non-native speakers are generally requested to evaluate foreign accent ratings (FARs) to measure L2 pronunciation in educational and research settings. In this study, Caitlin Gaffney and Stephanie Côté sought to examine a variable that has not been delved into much into prior research on foreign accent ratings: personality. Several studies have demonstrated that personality traits are interconnected to individuals’ perception of their surroundings and found associations between personality and attitudes of listeners towards others’ foreign accent. Gaffney and Côté aimed to show that personality also has a vital role in calculating listeners’ foreign accent ratings.

Research Methods

Participants included 36 monolingual English speakers who answered the Big Five Aspects personality test developed by DeYoung, Quilty, and Peterson (2007). Without any prior training in linguistics, the participants rated 15 individuals’ accentedness, whose L1 is Mandarin and L2 is English, and 5 native controls who are native English speakers. The raters were able to participate remotely because the entire study was conducted online.

Results

The raters’ personality result for the Big Five traits (agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness to experience) were associated with the average FAR score that they gave to the 15 speakers and 5 native controls. Correlations, which are the extent of association of two variables, are shown.  It was found that two of the five traits, which are extraversion and conscientiousness, are shown to have a significant correlation with the raters’ FARs score to the speakers. Extraversion is negatively correlated with FARs and conscientiousness positively correlated with FARs; furthermore, agreeableness also exhibited negative correlation to a certain extent. They found that openness to experience did not show a significant correlation, which means that individuals who have this trait does not influence the FARs they assign. Lastly, no significant correlation was found between neuroticism and the average FAR’s score.

Practical Implications/Significance

This study showed that, in addition to other listener variables (e.g., raters’ L1 or L2 speaker status, familiarity with speakers’ L1, and prior training in linguistics or teaching experiences), raters’ personality has a vital part in judging the accentedness of L2 speech samples. It is not just the listener’s background or experience that impacts their accent judgment but their personality as well.

Original Text: Gaffney, C., & Côté, S. (2020). Does personality influence ratings of foreign accents? Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 6(1), 68–95. https://doi.org/10.1075/jslp.18042.gaf

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