Auditory and Visual Training on Mandarin Tones: A Pilot Study on Phrases and Sentences

Auditory and Visual Training on Mandarin Tones: A Pilot Study on Phrases and Sentences

Xinchun Wang (California State University, Fresno, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijcallt.2012040102
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Beginning level Mandarin learners with different L1 backgrounds received six hours of Mandarin tone training using phrases and sentences produced by multiple native Mandarin speakers. Using Kay Elementric’s Sona Speech II software with real time display of pitch contours along with speech output on a PC computer, the trainees had both auditory and visual input when they recorded and compared their own productions with the training stimuli during the training. The trainees’ productions of Mandarin tones were judged by native Mandarin listeners to be significantly better at post test than at pretest. Such improvement was not matched by a control group that received the same classroom instruction but did not take the training. The trainees also reported very positive experience with the training. The findings suggest that the training is effective for learning Mandarin tones in a larger linguistic context beyond isolated syllables.
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Training And L2 Speech Learning

Previous research has shown that intensive laboratory based training is effective in modifying adult speakers’ L2 speech perception and production in both segmental and suprasegmental aspects of spoken language (Bradlow et al., 1997; Flege et al., 2004; Hardison, 2003, 2004; Jamieson & Morosan, 1989, 1992; Kingston, 2003; Lively et al., 1993, 1994; Logan et al., 1991, 1993; Logan & Pruitt, 1995; Wang & Munro, 2004). Training studies on L2 segments have shown that after weeks of perception training, trainees improved significantly in perceptual accuracy of target L2 consonant contrasts (Jamieson & Morosan, 1986, 1989; Lively et al., 1993, 1994) and L2 vowel contrasts (Wang & Munro, 1999, 2004). Perceptual learning also transferred to production (better production of the target contrast) without undergoing any training in production (Bradlow et al., 1997). Though still very limited, perceptual training for learning L2 lexical tones has also been reported (Wang, 2008; Wang et al., 1999, 2003; Wayland & Guion, 2003, 2004). For example, Wang et al. (1999) used natural stimuli produced by multiple Mandarin speakers to train native English listeners on Mandarin lexical tones. The trainees’ identification scores increased significantly after two weeks of training. Perceptual learning also spread to the production mode without training in production (Wang et al., 2003). Recent studies on tones also compared the influence of the learners’ L1 prosodic background (So, 2005, So & Best, 2010), or the effectiveness of different training procedures (such as auditory input only versus auditory and visual input), on learning lexical tones (Wang, 2008).

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