Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

Teaching and Learning L2 Spanish Intonation: Technology and Classroom Instruction

Angela George, University of Calgary (Canada)


The present study investigates the effects of explicit instruction on the production of dialectal differences in information-seeking yes/no questions (There is a meeting tomorrow?) and neutral broad-focused declarative statements (There is a meeting tomorrow.), which can be distinguished using intonation cues. For example, in Puerto Rican Spanish yes/no questions end with a low tone, while in North-Central Spain they end with a high tone. While learners of Spanish have been known to increase accurate production of target-like intonation patterns in study abroad contexts ([1], [2], [3]), it is unclear if they can do so as a result of training in the classroom. To address this question, 10 advanced L2 Spanish (L1 English) read 14 short scenarios, and after each one produced a target utterance for a total of 14 utterances including 7 absolute interrogatives, 3 information-seeking pronominal interrogatives (distractors), and 4 neutral broad-focused declarative statements. These recordings occurred before and shortly after receiving 30 minutes of in-class instruction on intonation as part of an advanced Spanish course at a large university in the USA. This instruction utilized visuals (map and Praat spectrograms) and their accompanying recordings from the Interactive Atlas of Spanish Intonation housed online. The instructor explained the differences in the intonation contours of the three types of utterances eight macrodialects of Spanish. While the participants listened to the recordings, with the help of the labeled spectrograms, they identified the high and low tones throughout the utterances. Comparisons to English were also made. The participants also completed a Spanish proficiency test and a background questionnaire in which they indicated the dialect they were attempting to speak. The data are compared to eight L1 Spanish speakers of different varieties of Spanish who read the same scenarios and produced the same utterances. The results show a high degree of individual variation, with some effect of instruction on the production of these variable intonation patterns. This presentation will also address ways to improve this instruction and incorporate it in the language classroom.

Keywords: L2 pronunciation, Online atlas.

[1] Craft, J. (2015). The Acquisition of Intonation by L2 Spanish Speakers While on a Six Week Study Abroad Program in Valencia, Spain. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis). Florida State University, Tallahassee.
[2] Henriksen, N., Geeslin, K., & Willis, E. (2010). The development of L2 Spanish intonation during a study abroad immersion program in Leon, Spain: Global contours and final boundary movements. Studies in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, 3(1), 113–162.
[3] Trimble, J. (2013). Acquiring Variable L2 Spanish Intonation in a Study Abroad Context. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

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