Can Audio Storybooks Improve Children’s Second-Language Accent?

JCL Blog Mar 15Blog post written by Terry Kit-Fong Au based on an article in the latest issue of Journal of Child Language 

With globalization, speaking more than one language is useful.  No wonder many children are learning a second or even a third language.  The younger children are when they start geting input from native speakers, the better their accent will be.  Yet because of resource constraints, interaction with native speakers is not always possible – especially for children learning a foreign language that is not the societal language (e.g., children learning English in much of Asia and Latin America).  Audios are commonly used as an affordable substitute.  But do they work?

Research recently published in the Journal of Child Language has revealed the usefulness of audio storybooks.  First-and second-grade children in Hong Kong – whose native language was Cantonese Chinese – listened to audio storybooks either in English or Mandarin Chinese.  To give children more diverse input, each audio storybook contained six recordings of the same very short story read by different native speakers.

These Cantonese Chinese children listened to a few dozens of such audio storybooks at home in only one of their non-native languages: either English or Mandarin Chinese.  Those who had listened to Mandarin stories improved significantly more in their Mandarin accent than those who had listened to English stories.  Those who had listened to English stories improved in their English accent somewhat more than those who had listened to Mandarin stories.

Audio storybooks may well prove to be a cost-effective strategy to enrich the language environment of young second-language learners.

We invite you to read the full article  ‘Can non-interactive language input benefit young second-language learners?‘ TERRY KIT-FONG AU, WINNIE WAILAN CHAN, LIAO CHENG, LINDA S. SIEGEL and RICKY VAN YIP TSO (2015)



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