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A Japanese Scholar in London

A Japanese Scholar in London

Kazuya Saito

Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL, University College London 


According to his webpage, Dr. Saito is currently studying audio processing and the role natural ability plays in second language learning. He is also working on a corpus for spontaneous speech of adult Japanese learners of English, and he is working with some others on a project dealing the psychology of the language classroom. Of course, he is mentoring Ph.D and Master’s Degree students. He is busy.


He has – and this is where this blog comes in – done considerable research on the acquisition of English sounds.


The Influence of Explicit Phonetic Instruction on Pronunciation Teaching in EFL settings: The Case of English Vowels and Japanese Learners of English


Published in the Linguistics Journal (see below), this study showed the “dramatic” improvement of pronunciation after explicit instruction.


Another article…

Examining the role of explicit phonetic instruction in native-like and comprehensible pronunciation development: an instructed SLA approach to L2 phonology

… claims that “explicit instruction had a significant effect on comprehensibility especially in the sentence-reading task”.


What kind of training? Minimal pairs on steroids: Like this (click here):


Making those kinds of videos is what b4 does.


Link to the first article:

Link to the second article:

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2 Responses to A Japanese Scholar in London

  1. I haven’t yet read the whole article, but I was a bit confused by this excerpt from the introductory comments of the PDF (the second link given):
    “Results suggested that explicit instruction had a significant effect on comprehensibility especially in the sentence-reading task, although a significant reduction in foreign accent was not obtained in any contexts.”

    Are they saying the subjects still had just as much of an accent, yet were more comprehensible? How does that work?

    Also, the first link is to an abstract of the paper. Was there a link to the whole paper that I missed?

  2. Yes, Alan, that’s right. A distinction between accent and comprehensibility is made. Here is what he says at the beginning of the article : “Whereas second language (L2) speech research has convincingly shown that it is tremendously difficult to attain native-like L2 pronunciation skills and foreign accent is a normal aspect of L2 speech (e.g. Flege, 2003; Piske, MacKay, & Flege, 2001), Derwing and Munro (2005) claimed that L2 speech should be considered from two different perspectives: accentedness and comprehensibility. According to them, accentedness is ‘the degree to which the pronunciation of an utterance sounds differ from an expected pronunciation pattern’, and comprehensibility is ‘listeners’ estimation of difficulty in understanding an utterance”

    Sometimes accent gets in the way and sometimes it doesn’t. They are trying to sort the details. It is interesting that the group of evaluators, the people who scored both aspects of the subjects speech, found them more comprehensible but with the same strength of accent after explicit training on specific sounds. That points to the importance of the phonemes, the sounds.

    I got the article from Researchgate. I cant’t find a place that let’s you download it without being a member or paying for it. Here is the DOI: 10.1080/09658416.2010.540326

    I have a copy is you want one. I would gladly send it to you. Dr. Saito is very meticulous in his research. And thanks for the interest.

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