The Effects of Accent Familiarity on English as a Foreign Language Students’ Word Recognition and Comprehension of the English Language

Main Article Content

Alan Robert White
Dhunyawat Treenate
Arunee Kiatgungwalgrai
Rachapon Somnuk
Kitti Chaloemchatvarakorn


Tests and in class assessments of EFL (English as a foreign language) listening comprehension generally attempt to sample from language that reflects what students will be expected to comprehend in the relevant contexts. Unfortunately, most listening tests and assessments do not consider or address the issue of accented English in ESL listening. This study examined the issues and problems EFL students face when listening to unfamiliar accents. Three groups (n=99) of Bachelor of Arts English major students enrolled at Rajamangala University of Technology Krungthep, Bangkok, Thailand were exposed to various accents at different frequency levels throughout the Advanced Listening and Speaking course. Tests were conducted to establish whether accent familiarity affected students’ understanding of the English language. The results of the tests suggest that familiarity of an accent can aid listener comprehension.

Article Details



[1] Bross, R. An application ofstructural linguistics to intelligibility measurement of impaired speakers of English. Intelligibility in speech disorders: Theory, measurement and management.1992. 35-65. Available from: %80%99+&ots=RSnNMUfaCv&sig=y8823V_o_oBiRrsQ6JnvdLbHqY#v=onepag&q&f=false.
[2] Cambridge ESOL IELTS teaching resource. 2008. [updated 2008 March 1;]. Available from: www.
[3] Charunsri, K. The Needs and Problems of English Language Skills for the Hotel Front Office Staff in Chinatown, Bangkok. 2011 [updated 2015 April 8;].Available from: lg/0606/title-appendices.pdf.
[4] Clarke, C. M., & Garrett, M. F. Rapid adaptation to foreign-accented English. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,2004;116(6): 3647-3658. Available from:
[5] Crystal, D. The Circle of World English, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 1995.
[6] Crystal, D. (2012). English as a global language. Cambridge University Press.
[7] Derwing, T. M., Rossiter, M. J., & Munro, M. J. Teaching native speakers to listen to foreign-accented speech. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 2002; 23(4): 245-259. Available from:
[8] elllo Learn English Naturally. (n.d).Available from:
[9] ETS [Educational Testing Service] TOEFL iBT Tips: How to Prepare for the NextGeneration TOEFL Test and
Communicate with Comfort. Princeton, NJ: ETS; (2005).
[10] Gass, S., & Varonis, E. M. The effect of familiarity on the comprehensibility of nonnative speech. Language Learning 1984; 34: 65-89. Retrieved from: 42/98153/j.1467-1770.1984.tb00996.
x .pdf?sequence=1
[11] Hart, G. (n.d). What Is Standard English?.Available from :http: //
[12] Kennedy, S., & Trofimovich, P. Intelligibility, comprehensibility, and accentedness of L2 speech: The role of listener experience and semantic context. Canadian Modern Language Review 2008; 64(3): 459-489. Available from:
[13] Liberman, M. Removing teachers with "accented" speech?. 2010. Availablefrom:
[14] Major, R. C., Fitzmaurice, S. F., Bunta, F., & Balasubramanian, C. The effects of nonnative accents on listening
comprehension: Implications for ESL assessment. TESOL quarterly, 2002. 36(2): 173-190. Available from:
[15] Matsuura, H., Chiba, R., Mahoney, S., & Rilling, S. Accent and speech rate effects in English as a lingua franca.
System 2014; 46: 143-150. Available from: /profile/Hiroko_Matsuura/publication/
[16] Nicholls, P. The ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement on Tourism Professionals in Thailand: A Mixed
Blessing? AU-GSB e-Journal 2014; Vol 7 No 1:[2015nApril 7th]. Available from:http://www.assumptionjournal.
[17] Van Engen, K. J., & Peelle, J. E. Listening effort and accented speech. Frontiers in human neuroscience,
2014;8. Available from:
[18] Vanhaleweyk, G. (n.d). Tourism Statistics Thailand 20002014.Available from:
[19] Yusica, U. (n.d). Problems Faced by Thai Students in Speaking English. [updated 2015 April 7]. Available from: