An analysis of English as a foreign language learners' perceptual confusions and phonemic awareness of English fricatives

  • KyungA Lee (Department of English Language Education, Seoul National University)
  • Received : 2023.08.15
  • Accepted : 2023.09.11
  • Published : 2023.09.30


This study investigates perceptual confusions of English fricatives among 121 Korean elementary school English as a foreign language (EFL) learners with shorter periods of learning English. The objective is to examine how they perceive English fricative consonants and to provide educational guidelines. Two sets of English fricative identification tasks-voiceless fricatives and voiced fricatives-were administered to participants in a High Variability Phonetic Training (HVPT) setting. Their phonemic awareness of the fricatives was visualized in perceptual confusion maps via multidimensional scaling analysis. The findings are explored in terms of the impacts of Korean EFL learners' L1 linguistic aspects and a comparison with L1 learners. Learners' phonemic awareness patterns are then compared with their relative importance in speech intelligibility based on a functional load hierarchy. The results indicated that Korean elementary EFL learners recognized English fricatives in a manner largely akin to L1 learners, suggesting their ongoing acquisition progress. Additionally, the findings demonstrated that the young EFL learners possess sufficient phonemic awareness for most high functional load segments but encounter some difficulties with one high and one low functional pair. The findings of this study offer suggestions for diagnosing language learners' phonemic awareness abilities, thereby aiding in the development of practical guidelines for language instructional design and helping educators make informed decisions regarding teaching priority in L2 classes.



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