TOEFL iBT Pronunciation: A Case Study of 22 Non-Native Speakers

 

Have you ever had an ESL/EFL professsional do a pronunciation profile of your speech?
Have you ever had an ESL/EFL professsional do a pronunciation profile of your speech?

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Listen to this post:   case-study

As a TOEFL iBT student you should work hard to improve your pronunciation so that you can score high on TOEFL iBT speaking.

I did a pronunciation profile of 22 adults who came to the United States and profiled them a month later.  I found that, although it is difficult to improve one’s pronunciation in such a short time, it is possible to improve.   Like them, you can also improve in your pronunciation by speaking regularly with native speakers.

 

 Pre-Testing Results for January 26, 2009 for 22 Non-Native Speakers of English

The average score for the testers is 4.1/7.0, so ten high intermediate level test-takers could be described as having obvious accent and pronunciation variations that do not interfere with understanding and are rarely distracting.

On the low end, six intermediate level test-takers score between 3.2-3.9/7.0, suggesting that they are mostly intelligible and are characterized as having some distracting accent and pronunciation variations, most of which do not not prevent understanding.

Also on the low end is a low intermediate level test-taker who scores 2.9/7.0, thus being characterized as being somewhat intelligible with frequent distracting and sometimes unintelligible pronunciation variations.

On the high end, five students score between 5.0-5.8/7.0, all of whom have barely detectable non-native accents and are characterized as having almost native-speaker like proficiency: rare isolated mispronunciations and no evident patterns of error.

Areas of Concern for the Group

That the test-takers are postpubescent educated language learners far past the critical period of language acquisition (0-12 years) poses significant challenges in terms of what speaking/pronunciation progress they might make. However, progress can be made.

55% of the test-takers exhibit problems with syllable division, especially with longer academic words. Also, there are a few cases with the intermediate level students in which they add an unnecessary syllable at the end of a word.

64% of test-takers exhibit problems with blending. These test-takers are characterized as not blending words within the same thought group that end and begin with the same consonant sound (i.e., bathe the children). Additionally, these test-takers do not blend words that end with a consonant sound to the vowel sound of the next word (i.e., hand out).

82% of test-takers exhibit problems with sentence rhythm. A majority of these test-takers fail to differentiate between unstressed function words (determiners, helping verbs, and prepositions) and stressed content words (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs). Instead, they tend to stress most words equally.

82% of test-takers exhibit problems with intonation. These test-takers do not designate a focus word (i.e., noun, adjective, adverb, or verb) within each utterance and therefore do not stress that word more than other words. Another characteristic of these test-takers is that they have difficulties varying their pitch with yes/no questions (i.e., higher pitch) and statements (i.e., lower pitch at the end). Furthermore, these test-takers do not place prominent stress on words carrying new information. Finally, many of these speakers are unfamiliar with intonation patterns and items in a series in which the pitch rises on the stressed syllable of every item except the last.

 Post-Test Results for Feb 20, 2009 for 22 Non-Native Speakers of English

The average score for the post-testers is 4.7/7.0, and twelve high intermediate level test-takers could be described as having obvious accent and pronunciation variations that do not interfere with understanding and are rarely distracting.

On the low end, four intermediate level test-takers score between 3.2-3.9/7.0, suggesting that they are mostly intelligible and are characterized as having some distracting accent and pronunciation variations, most of which do not prevent understanding.

On the high end, six students score between 5.0-6.1/7.0 and are characterized as having almost native-speaker like proficiency: rare isolated mispronunciations and no evident patterns of error.  

Statistics for the Group

13% of test-takers exhibit problems with vowels.

23% of test-takers exhibit problems with consonants.

14% of test-takers exhibit problems with syllable division.

50% of test-takers exhibit problems with grammatical word endings.

55% of the test-takers exhibit problems with word stress, especially with longer academic words.

45% of test-takers exhibit problems with sentence rhythm.

14% of test-takers exhibit problems with intonation.

27% of test-takers exhibit problems with thought groups.

50% of test-takers exhibit problems with blending.

To improve your TOEFL iBT writing skills, write a 250 word analysis of this case study.    How do the results of the post-test compare with those of the pre-test?

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For more information, go here:

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/index.html (TOEFL iBT)

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page31.html (TOEFL iBT Speaking)

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page28.html (TOEFL iBT Writing)

 

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page23.html (TOEFL iBT Reading)

 

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page20.html (TOEFL iBT Listening)

 

http://www.michaelbuckhoff.com/page14.html (TOEFL iBT Pronunciation)

 

2 thoughts on “TOEFL iBT Pronunciation: A Case Study of 22 Non-Native Speakers”

  1. Pingback: TOEFL iBT Pronunciation- "F" and "V" Consonant Sounds: Practice Exercises - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

  2. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » A Question from TOEFLer, “What pronunciation lessons do you have?”

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