As there is a clear correlation between one's degree of proficiency in the English language and one's subsequent financial compensation in the workplace setting and in interpersonal relationships, improving one's speaking abilities can be highly valuable from both a financial and emotional perspective. This study examines the efficacy of an electropalatography (EPG) assisted pronunciation training program in helping native Japanese learners of English acquire and improve the /r/ and /l/ sound contrast in American English, as rated by a group of listeners. Additionally, it evaluates whether or not the degree of improvement varied across word position, task type, or assessment period. Four native Japanese speaking learners of English participated in a four-week program which included seven 45- minute training sessions enhanced with visual biofeedback from the EPG. Samples of their productions of the target phonemes were obtained at baseline, at posttreatment, and at follow-up assessment periods. Using a visual analogue scale, 36 adult listeners listened to these recordings and provided comparative auditory perceptual ratings. Overall, subjects showed greater improvement in their production of the phoneme /l/ than in the phoneme /r/. Phoneme-specific patterns emerged in terms of word position, task type, and assessment period. For the phoneme /l/, more improvement was seen in final position than initial position, more improvement was seen in nonsense syllables than in words, and improvements were maintained across posttreatment to follow-up assessment periods. For the phoneme /r/, roughly equal levels of improvement were seen across word position, while greater improvement was seen in the context of words in sentences than in nonsense syllables, and posttreatment showed greater levels of improvement than did follow-up assessment periods. These results are promising as it indicates that EPG assisted pronunciation training may be an effective vehicle to help L2 English language learners acquire and improve their productions of the /r/-/l/ phonemic contrast. This is significant, as the Japanese L2 population has typically been found to be highly resistant to more traditional forms of intervention.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





electropalatography, Japanese, second-language acquisition, accent reduction, liquid contrast, auditory perceptual ratings



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