The effects of nonnative accents on listening comprehension: Implications for ESL assessment

Roy C. Major, Susan F. Fitzmaurice, Ferenc Bunta, Chandrika Balasubramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Citations (Scopus)


Tests of ESL listening comprehension attempt to sample from language that reflects what examinees will be expected to comprehend in the relevant contexts, but most listening tests do not address the fact that accented English is a normal part of ESL listening. To begin to explore the issue, this study examined the extent to which native-English-speaking and ESL listeners performed better on a test when the speaker shared their native language. Four groups of 100 listeners, whose native languages were Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and standard American English, heard brief lectures presented in English by speakers with different native languages and answered questions based on the lectures. The results indicated that both native and nonnative listeners scored significantly lower on listening comprehension tests when they listened to nonnative speakers of English, native speakers of Spanish scored significantly higher when listening to Spanish-accented speech, and native speakers of Chinese scored significantly lower when listening to speakers who shared their native language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-190
Number of pages18
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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