Developing Phonological Awareness in Blended-learning Language Courses

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This study is based on Second Language Acquisition through blended learning and explores the application of new educational technologies in the development of distance education. In particular, the paper focuses on ways to enhance oral, aural, and intercultural skills through learners’ engagement, develop authentic social interaction and intercultural awareness in virtual environments and at the same time actively engage the students’ powers of perception, communication and reasoning. A speech visualization technology is introduced, specifically tailored to pronunciation training. It provides relevant and comprehensible visual feedback of all three components of speech: prosody-intonation, stress and rhythm. In this paper we stress that the achievement of successful communication should be the main objective of a second language learner, whilst overcoming the foreign accent can be deemed as a secondary goal. A strong or incorrect placement of word stress may impair understanding – from the listener’s point of view – of the word(s) being pronounced. On the other hand, acquiring correct timing of phonological units helps to overcome the impression of foreign accent, which may ensue from an incorrect distribution of stressed vs. unstressed stretches of linguistic units such as syllables or metric feet. For these reasons our study looks at how to improve a student’s performance both in perception and production of spoken Italian prosodic features, which include the correct position of stress at word level, the alternation of stress and unstressed syllables, the correct position of sentence accent, the generation of the adequate rhythm from the interleaving of stress, accent, phonological rules, and the generation of adequate intonation patterns for each utterance related to communicative functions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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