An Effects of Visual Cues on Perception of Non-native Consonant Contrasts by Chinese EFL Learners

| March 10, 2014

An Effects of Visual Cues on Perception of Non-native Consonant Contrasts by Chinese EFL Learners

Keywords: Nonnative consonant contrast, visual cue in articulation, Cantonese-speaking EFL learners, perception, L2 pronunciation teaching


Bin Li and Congchao Hua
City University of Hong Kong, China


Dr. Bin Li is Assistant Professor at the Department of Chinese, Translation & Linguistics in City University of Hong Kong. She received her Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Florida, USA. Her research interests include second language speech learning, phonetics, and language teaching.

Congchao Hua is Lecturer at English Department, Hubei University, China. She received her M.A. in linguistics from Nanjing Normal University and postgraduate diploma in ELT from Nanyang Technological University. Her research interests include L2 pedagogy and pronunciation teaching. Ms. Hua was Research Assistant in Dr. Li’s Research Group.


Visual cues in articulation are generally considered helpful in the perception and learning of L2 consonant contrasts. Our study investigated whether there is any visual cue to the distinction of the English consonant contrast /l/ and /n/, which shares the same place of articulation and is reported as a problem to EFL learners speaking southern Chinese dialects. We then examined whether a visual cue can facilitate EFL learners’ perceptual processing of the contrast. To serve these ends, we carried out two experiments. In the first experiment, we video-recorded and analyzed two native English speakers’ production of the two sounds. In the second experiment, 90 Cantonese-speaking EFL learners participated in a perception test in three conditions: audiovisual, audio-only and visual-only. Results of Experiment I revealed a visible articulatory difference between [l] and [n] in the advancement of tongue tips. Results of the perception experiment showed that the Cantonese-speaking EFL learners performed much better in the audiovisual condition than in the audio-only condition but did poorly in the visual-only condition. These results suggest that visual cues synchronic with audio information may exert a positive effect on L2 learner’s perception of nonnative consonant contrasts. The pedagogical implication drawn is that training on visual cues and can be incorporated into L2 pronunciation teaching.


Category: Quarterly Journal