Psycho-Social Constraints on Naturalistic Adult Second Language Acquisition

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The following study investigated a rare case of adult immersion in a second language context without prior exposure to the language. It aimed to investigate whether Length of Residence (LoR) acts as a strong index of L2 speech performance when coupled with daily exposure and interaction with first language speakers. Twenty-two females from Africa and Asia who worked
as Foreign Domestic Helpers (FDH) in Omani homes and with varying LoRs performed an AX discrimination and a production task which tapped into Omani consonants and clusters that are absent from their L1s; their accent was also rated by L1 Omani listeners. Results showed a surprising lack of significance of LoR on all the production and perception measures examined. Discrimination
results showed a low sensitivity to Arabic consonantal contrasts that are lacking in the L1 across all participants, and a small positive effect of L1 literacy. Production results exhibited low accuracy on all Arabic consonants and a marked foreign accent as judged by L1 listeners, with a small positive effect
of L2 literacy. We argue that the nature of the interactions between FDH and employers, along with uneven power relations and social distance, counteract any advantage of LoR and the immersion setting examined here.
Keywords: length of residence; foreign domestic helper; foreign accent; naturalistic adult acquisition;
L2 speech performance
Original languageEnglish
Article number129
Pages (from-to)109-149
Number of pages21
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 28 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities

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