Native and Non-Native Speakers’ Perceptions of L2 Fluency

Contributors: Annika Jennings | Reviewers: Yu-Han Lin | Date: 2022-04-13

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Focus of the study

Speaking fluency plays a large role in effective communication. This article investigates fluency ratings of second language English speakers by native-speaker experts, native-speaker novices, and non-native advanced speakers. Through the narration of picture stories, this study examines global ratings of fluency across the different groups of listeners as well as what temporal (speech rate, average length of run, repetitions, self-corrections, false starts, reformulations, asides, and pauses) and non-temporal aspects (pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary) affected judgement.

Research methods

There were 24 English as a second language speaking participants at the intermediate level. Their ages ranged from 21-59 years old and they came from 18 different countries. The average time spent in Canada across the participants was three years and seven months. For the listening participants, there were six expert native speakers (average age: 29-51) that spent anywhere from five to twelve years teaching and four had their PhD in linguistics while the other two had their masters in applied linguistics. There were 15 novice native speakers who were current university students and 15 advanced non-native speakers, 13 Swiss German and two Italian with ages ranging from 20-41 years old.

A narrative description task was conducted where they were given one minute for preparation, and the average narrative was 3.7 minutes. Their responses were audio recorded and the task was conducted again ten weeks later. The raters listened to one minute of each recording and were asked to rate on temporal fluency. The raters wrote about their impressions of the recording and rated for fluency through a nine-point Likert scale.

Findings

Based on the Likert scale ratings, the learners’ fluency did not improve over the 10-week period. The novice native speakers gave higher fluency ratings than the expert native speakers who gave higher ratings than the non-native speaking listeners. All groups rated the temporal and non-temporal variables the same for perceived fluency, but both groups of the native speakers focused more on lexical choice while the non-native speaking raters focused more on grammatical aspects. The top reported non-temporals were pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, and the top temporal factors were pausing, self-repetitions, speech rate, and fillers which seemed to have the biggest impact on the listeners’ fluency ratings.

Significance of the study

This study helps to investigate what factors make up speaking fluency, which ones are perceived as more important, and how interrelated temporal and non-temporal factors are for the notion of fluency. It was found that all three groups of judges rated the factors similarly, showing that they had similar ideas as to what aspects are more significant for perceptions of fluency for speakers. This shows that native-expert, native-novice, and non-native-expert speakers can be used to rate second language speakers evenly and that speaking fluency is perceived similarly across different listeners.

Original Article: Rossiter, J. (2009). Perceptions of L2 fluency by native and non-native speakers of English. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 65(3), 395–412. https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.65.3.395

Cite this summary: 
Jennings, A. (2022). Native and Non-Native Speakers' Perceptions of L2 Fluency. Multiʻōlelo Summary of Rossiter (2005) in The Canadian Modern Language Review. Retrieved from https://multiolelo.com/?p=1890

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