This study focuses on how the cross-language perception of German vowels by native speakers of North American English differs based on various levels of classroom instruction and experience in a German-speaking country. Of special interest is whether more advanced students and those with target country experience have a different cross-language perception of German vowels from naive or less-experienced listeners. It further examines how English-speaking learners perceive German sounds that are not found in English, namely the front-rounded vowels. Study participants were students at Brigham Young University, divided into four groups: those 1) without knowledge of German; 2) in their 3rd semester of German without stay abroad; 3) in their 5th semester of German or above without stay abroad; and 4) in their 5th semester or above with at least 12 months in a German-speaking country. The subjects performed two tasks. While listening to German words, they first selected the English word with the vowel that most closely matched the German vowel heard from a list of English words on the computer screen; and secondly, they rated how much alike the German vowel sounded like the English vowel they chose. The results indicate that level of instruction does indeed affect how subjects perceive German vowels. Moreover, perception of the vowels was to some degree affected by the consonant environment. Finally, it was found that all groups rated the similarity of vowels in a similar manner regardless of experience.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


Document Type





Cross-language Perception, Experience, German Vowels, North American English Vowels, Phonetic context, Second Language Acquisition