Listening to accents. Intelligibility of casual and accented spoken English to Flemish learners of English as a foreign language

Luisteren naar accenten. Verstaanbaarheid van spontaan en geaccentueerd gesproken Engels voor Vlaamse leerders van het Engels als een vreemde taal
Start - End 
2022 - 2026 (ongoing)
Department of Linguistics
Research Focus 
Research Language 



The proposed project sets out to examine how regional and non-native accents in spoken English affect the intelligibility for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners. Listening to a second or foreign language (L2) is known to be more difficult than listening to a first or native language (L1), and this is even more so when a speaker has an unfamiliar regional or a non-native accent. Remarkably, prior studies on L2 listening have almost invariably used careful, laboratory speech, which often strongly deviates from the speech that listeners hear in real-life situations. As such, very little is known about which specific features of casual accented speech cause difficulties for L2 listeners. The current project addresses these gaps in a series of three experiments, in which Belgian-Dutch EFL listeners will be presented with authentic, casual speech excerpts drawn from talk shows and interviews. Each experiment assesses the effect of one feature of casual and accented spoken English on L2 speech intelligibility: (i) deletion of speech sounds, (ii) vowel variation and (iii) consonant variation. The results of this project will make a major contribution to our knowledge of how phonological variation in L2 speech affects L2 listening. Regarding societal relevance, then, this project aims to shed light on how EFL learners can be better prepared for real-life listening situations.



Phd Student(s)


Holger Mitterer

Department of Cognitive Science - University of Malta