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Students Have to Hear the Sounds to Learn Them

Students have to hear the sounds to learn them. That seems obvious. It is obvious. The problem is that students cannot hear the sounds. They cannot distinguish some of the sounds of an L2. The most obvious example is how Japanese learners cannon distinguish L and R.

A critical fact, however, is that students can learn to distinguish the sounds if the sounds are made salient, exaggerated. Then the sounds can be distinguished, and they can be learned.

It has been shown that training L2 listeners with tokens that have been acoustically exaggerated results in successful L2 perceptual processing (McClelland). Furthermore, presenting L2 listeners with multiple instances of L2 sounds produced by different talkers and in different contexts also leads to effective perceptual training (Pisoni). From this evidence, Kuhl (2000, p. 11855) argues that feedback and reinforcement are not necessary in learning to perceive L2 sounds, but rather that non-native listeners simply need the “right” kind of perceptual input, i.e., exaggerated acoustic cues, multiple instances of the same sound, and a mass listening experience.

This is what b4 does.

McClelland, J., Thomas, A., McCandliss, B., and Fiez, J. (1999). Understanding failures of learning: Hebbian Learning, competition for representational space, and some preliminary experimental data.

Pisoni, D. B., Lively, S. E, & Logan, J. S. (1994). Perceptual learning of nonnative speech contrasts: Implications for theories of speech perception.

Kuhl, P. K. (2000). A new view of language acquisition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA,

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