The measurement of Sudanese intelligibility to native and Dutch listeners of English



The primary focus of this paper is to investigate intelligibility problems facing Sudanese university learners of English. The whole work was done on the basis of a segmental analysis of vowels, singleton consonants, and consonant clusters of English so as to explore the types of perception errors made in the areas under concern. Ten Sudanese-Arabic learners of English as foreign language (EFL) were recorded. On the basis of a pilot test, one male speaker was then selected as the optimally representative EFL speaker. The same materials were recorded from a single male native speaker of RP English. In a subsequent perception test Dutch EFL listeners were presented lists of words that included vowels, single and cluster consonants, as well as a list of SPIN sentences (SPIN = Speech Perception in Noise test, developed by Kalikov, Stevens and Elliot, 1997 [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 61, 1337-1351] read alternatively by the Sudanese and the native British speaker. The single-item (word) stimuli were constructed on the basis of the Modified Rhyme Test (MRT) but with a few potential improvements. The MRT is less time consuming than other diagnostic intelligibility tests and provides reliable results GADARIF UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF SCIENCE &ARTS VOLUME NO (3) 2 even with small groups of 10 to 20 listeners. The information obtained can be analyzed by confusion matrices that will in turn show how different phonemes are misidentified. Thus, the MRT helps localize the learning difficulties. Data showed that the Dutch listeners made more perception errors (specifically on English central and back vowels) when read by the Sudanese speaker than when read by the RP control speaker. Dutch listeners found the native speaker of English more intelligible than the Sudanese speaker. Due to the set-up of the experiment, we can separate the confusions on the part of the Dutch EFL listeners into two components: (i) confusions due to the fact that the Dutch listeners are not aware of certain phonemic contrasts in English (such as the difference between bed and bad or between full and fool) and (ii) confusion due to incorrect pronunciation of the English sounds by the Sudanese EFL speaker.

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