BLC Travel Grant Report

I gave a lecture presentation on a project I co-authored with Kazuya Saito at the 166th Acoustical Society of America (ASA) on December 4, 2013. I have been presenting my work at the ASA since the 156th conference in Miami. The ASA is an international scientific society dedicated to promoting research on acoustics and its practical applications. The projects I have presented at the ASA over the past decade focus on the acquisition of second language speech, an aspect of speech communication in the ASA rubric.

The theme of the speech communication session at the 2013 conference was Acquiring Speech: Children and Adults and featured five presentations followed by general discussion. The topics of the five presentations were 1) Difficulty in the acquisition of Mandarin high level and high falling tones by Cantonese learners, 2) Development of vowel spaces from age 21 to age 49 in a group of 8 talkers, 3) Non-native vowel production accuracy and variability in relation to overall intelligibility, 4) Individual differences in learning to perceive novel phonetic contrasts: How stable are they across time and paradigms? and 5) The effect of sleep on learned sensitivity to a non-native phonetic contrast.

I presented the first topic on the difficulty in learning two Mandarin tones that have the same phonemic value for Mandarin learners whose native language is Cantonese. This project incorporated Form-Focused Instruction (FFI) design into tone learning. The results indicated improvement in tone perception and production after learners received 90-minute FFI treatments. My presentation received very constructive feedback from the audience. For example, it was suggested that the difficult tones had been merged in Hong Kong Cantonese but not in Guangdong Cantonese. This provided a potential topic for future research: comparing speakers of Guangdong Cantonese and Hong Kong Cantonese on their acquisition of these two tones.

I really appreciate the support of the Berkeley Language Center with their generous travel grant.