The influence of Dutch lecturers' accent strength in English on non-native students' attitudes and perceptions of comprehensibility.

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The increase of English as a medium of instruction has inevitably forced many non-native English (NNE) lecturers to teach in English instead of their mother tongue. Non-native lecturers often speak with a foreign accent in English. However, the impact of NNE lecturers’ accent strength on evaluations by non-native students remains relatively under researched. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Dutch lecturers’ accent strength on NNE students with the same (i.e. Dutch) and different (i.e. ‘international’) linguistic background as the lecturer, in terms of intelligibility and perceived comprehensibility of the lecturers and attitudes towards the lecturers. In a verbal guise experiment, 179 Dutch and 181 international students evaluated audio fragments of speakers with a moderate Dutch, slight Dutch or native accent in English. Dutch students perceived lecturers with a moderate Dutch-English accent as less comprehensible than lecturers with a slightly Dutch or native English accent, while accent strengths did not affect international students’ perceived comprehensibility. Lecturers with a moderately Dutch accent in English were evaluated more negatively (for likeability, power, competence and teaching quality) compared to lecturers with a slight Dutch or a native English accent by both Dutch and international students. Moreover, it was found that Dutch students evaluated the moderately accented lecturer more negatively compared to their international counterparts in terms of power, competence and teaching quality. This provides evidence for a so-called vicarious shame effect among listeners with the same L1 as the speaker if he or she has a strong foreign accent. In conclusion, degrees of accentedness in English affect attitudinal evaluations by non-native listener with the same and different linguistic background. Therefore, it is advisable that universities offer NNE lecturers help to reduce traces of a heavy foreign accent.
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