External feedback in language courses vital for learners, study explains why
NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: A new study has underlined the importance of external feedback in language courses as it makes the learners aware of their language deficits and reduces the overestimation of one's own abilities in this context.
The study led by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich shows that everyone believes their own pronunciation to be best.
Dealing with pronunciation is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language. Learners are typically prone to specific sets of errors, which differ depending on the learner's first language.
Many people laugh at the mistakes in pronunciation, even though they make the same mistakes themselves. But this reaction in itself points to a paradox: It demonstrates that learners register errors when made by others. Nevertheless, the majority of language learners find it virtually impossible to eliminate these typical errors even after years of practice.
A study carried out by LMU linguists Eva Reinisch and Nikola Eger, in collaboration with Holger Mitterer from the University of Malta, has now uncovered one reason for this paradox. "Learners have a tendency to overestimate the quality of their own pronunciation," says Reinisch.
"As a rule, they believe that their English is better than that spoken by their fellow students at language schools, although they make the same set of errors," Reinish added.
One of the important factors that helps explain why it is so difficult to learn the sounds of a foreign language is this exaggerated assessment of one's own ability.
For the study, the researchers asked 24- female German learners of English to read out 60 short sentences in English. Several weeks later, the same learners were invited back to the lab and asked to listen to recordings of four learners - three others and themselves. Specifically, they were asked to grade the pronunciation of each sentence. In order to ensure that participants would not recognize their own productions, the recordings were manipulated in such a way that the female speakers sounded like male speakers.
The results showed that, in all cases, the listeners rated their own pronunciation as better than others did, even though they were unable to recognize that it was their own recording.
Previous research has shown that familiar accents are easier to understand than accents that are less familiar. Another possible contributory factor is what is known as the 'mere exposure' effect. This term refers to the fact that we tend to rate things with which we are more familiar - such as the sound of our own voice - as more congenial.
The results of the study underline the importance of external feedback in language courses because it increases the learners; awareness of deficits in language production and comprehension.