Table of contents
1.1 Introduction of the participants
2. Analysis of the experiment
2.1 Graphic illustration of the mistakes committed
2.1.1 Diagram 1 – Test results of Jorge
2.1.2 Diagram 2 – Test results of Noel
2.1.3 Diagram 3 – Test results of David
2.1.4 Diagram 4 – Test results of Martín
Native Spanish adult learners of English tend to omit or to mispronounce the English regular past tense morpheme –ed
Native Spanish speakers tend to mispronounce or to omit the –ed morpheme when it comes to regular English verbs in simple past. (example: manag ed, arrang ed, crowd ed). It is important to remind oneself of the fact that “[t]he basic morphological unit, however, is not the word, but the morpheme […], the smallest meaning-bearing unit of a language” (Kortmann, Bernd. English Linguistics: Essentials).
So, when the – ed morpheme is omitted the listener cannot discriminate whether the person speaking is talking in simple present or in simple past. This might lead to confusion and to serious misunderstandings. I personally found that native speakers of Spanish face serious problems when it comes to the pronunciation of English words. In all the months I spent in Spain I somehow thought about those difficulties that occur constantly and when giving English lessons to Spanish teenagers I finally came to the conclusion that I have to investigate at least one aspect of the phenomenon of the mispronunciation of English words by native speakers of Spanish.
According to a study on L2 perception and production of the English regular past by Stephanie Solt, Yana Pugach, Elaine C. Klein, Kent Adams, Iglika Stoyneshka, and Tamara Rose
“[t]he perception of the English regular past could be a challenge to L2 learners for several reasons. First, the regular past morpheme is not always phonetically realized in the same way: There are 2 non-syllabic allomorphs, [t] (as in stopped) and [d] (as in closed), and one syllabic allomorph, [ɪd] (as in waited). Not all of these allomorphs are equally salient. Syllabics (e.g., [ɪd]) are considered to be more perceptually salient than stops (e.g., [t], [d]); moreover, it is an accepted fact in phonetics that stops – especially final stops – are among the least sonorous phonetic segments. The perceptual challenge is further deepened by the fact that many languages do not allow codas consisting of final – t or – d (the phonetic segments by which the English regular past is realized). Additionally, the formation of the English regular past tense often creates complex codas, or consonant clusters, which are rare in the world’s languages and are considered to be marked. More generally, numerous cross-language perceptual studies have shown that L2 learners’ perception of second language phonetic segments often does not match that of native speakers, particularly when it comes to segments or contrasts not found in the learners’ L1“
(Solt, Stephanie; Pugach, Yana; Klein, Elaine C.; Adams, Kent; Stoyneshka, Iglika; Rose, Tamara. L2 Perception and Production of the English Regular Past: Evidence of Phonological Effects.).
In the study mentioned above they tested 68 adult learners of L2 English. There was a wide range of native languages represented, including, for instance, Spanish, Turkish, Mandarin, Russian and French Creole. One hypothesis was that “L2 learners of English will not perceive the regular past tense form in a target-like manner” and another one was that “the syllabic allomorph [ɪd] will be better perceived than the non-syllabic allomorphs [t]/[d]” (Solt, Stephanie; Pugach, Yana; Klein, Elaine C.; Adams, Kent; Stoyneshka, Iglika; Rose, Tamara. L2 Perception and Production of the English Regular Past: Evidence of Phonological Effects.).
Having read attentively that study, I decided to test myself whether native Spanish adult learners of English are really not able to pronounce the –ed morpheme appropriately when it comes to regular English verbs in simple past. I therefore decided to focus on the two non-syllabic allomorphs where the final –ed sound is either pronounced like /t/ (after voiceless sounds such as /p/, /f/, /s/, /k/, /ʃ/ and /tʃ/) or like /d/ (after voiced sounds such as /b/, /g/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/, /dʒ/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /l/, /ð/ and /r/) in my study.
Here is a list of the verbs I chose to use for my experiment:
Verbs that end in a voiceless consonant:
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
1. Yesterday I worked during lunchtime.
2. John parked his car in order to go shopping.
3. We helped them so that they were able to solve the problem.
4. The wolves yelped all the time.
5. He kissed her passionately.
6. He tossed the coin to her.
Verbs that end in a voiced consonant:
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
1. He was so happy to see her again that he hugged her twice.
2. It bugged him having to clean the bathroom.
3. It was so cold outside that he rubbed his hands.
4. I'm glad I subbed this threat.
5. You caused us a lot of trouble and that's why you have to move out.
6. Brad paused for breath.
I will run the experiment with four male adult native speakers of Spanish. Each of them will be tested in isolation. Neither me nor a native speaker of English will read aloud the test sentences beforehand. Each of the candidates will be given a sheet of paper and they shall begin to read aloud the 12 test sentences immediately. This way I want to make sure that the testees will not have the time to figure out what phenomenon the experiment is dealing with and moreover, they will not have the chance to practice their pronunciation beforehand. The utterances of all four testees will be recorded on my cell phone so that I will be able to interpret and evaluate the test results afterwards. If the participants hesitate with regard to the pronunciation of a word they will not be given any advise and if one of them skips a word the testee in question will be asked to repeat the sentence.
1.1 Introduction of the participants
I asked all participants for their age, their current place of residence, their birthplace, their foreign experience, their self-evaluation with regard to the English language and their personal history of their learning of English. Furthermore, I asked whether they have any plans to go abroad in the future and what they would currently do - if they do anything - to improve their English or to prevent their English skills from vanishing little by little.
I regarded it as an important point to get a little overview over the four participants so that one will be able to connect these data with those coming up after the realization of the experiment, i.e. in the process of analysis and interpretation.
1. Jorge, 23 years old, lives in Oviedo (Spain), had been learning English in school for several years and describes himself as a quite empathic person. His first language is Spanish. He lived a year in Turkey where he attended university (all courses and lectures were given in English) and half a year in Germany where he mostly spoke English. Although he lived in Turkey, he spoke English all the time and did not acquire Turkish. He considers himself a relatively good speaker of English. He is currently a student at the university of Oviedo where he studies business studies and plans to spend half a year either in England, China or Germany again. Jorge is very interested in languages, quite motivated to improve his English and German and wants to live in an English- or German-speaking country in the future due to the economic crisis in Spain. Therefore, he intents to watch movies in English with English subtitles as often as possible and tries now and then to read English books.
2. Noel, 26 years old, lives in Málaga (Spain) and had been learning English in school for some years. His first language is Spanish. He is out of school for about eight years now and never practiced his English, neither in Spain nor in another country. He never went abroad and does not speak other languages except for Spanish. He considers himself a bad speaker of English and thinks about going abroad to improve it. He currently works as a DJ in Málaga. Noel feels bad about him having poor knowledge of the English language and states that he had such bad English teachers in school that he was never really interested in learning English in the first place. He currently does not make any effort to improve his English skills or to prevent them from vanishing entirely.
3. David, 27 years old, lives in Berlin (Germany) and had been learning English in school for several years. His first language is Spanish. He is from Oviedo (Spain) where he studied physics at the university of Oviedo. He did an internship in Berlin for half a year and was required to speak English all day long. Currently he works as an au-pair in Berlin in order to improve his German. Altogether, he already spent one year and a half in Berlin. He considers himself a regular speaker of English and says that he can notice that the more his German improves the worse gets his English. Moreover, he states that he feels that he has great difficulty in pronouncing English words in general and that, for instance, the pronunciation of German would be way easier for him. At the moment he does not do anything to improve his English skills or to maintain them - he focuses completely on his German studies.
4. Martín, 31 years old, lives in Berlin (Germany), had been learning English in school for several years and is out of school for about 12 years. His first language is Spanish. He is from Galicia (Spain) and never practiced English out of school. He studied new media in Galicia and is currently unemployed. He worked as a Spanish teacher in Spain and is therefore well aware of the difficulties and the challenges a foreign language entails. Martín considers himself a regular speaker of English. He states that he had been a good speaker of English during school days and that he regrets having neglected the English language after having finished school but that he currently sees no need to work on his English skills.