Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


The Phonological Skills of Two-Way Immersion Learners: An Acoustic Analysis of Spanish Vowels


Modern Languages & Literatures


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Native-like pronunciation is necessary for membership into somesocial groups and to be considered a legitimate speaker of a language. Two-way bilingual immersion (TWBI) aims to develop bilingual individuals, able to participate in multiple global communities, and while the lexical, syntactic, and sociolinguistic development of TWBI learners is well documented, their phonological skills remain unexplored. This study sets out to address this gap by investigating TWBI learners' pronunciation of Spanish vowels, a sound class known to lead to a foreign accent, comparing the production of native English-speaking learners to those of their native Spanish-speaking peers and considering development over (apparent) time. A total of 80 TWBI students participated in this study, twenty (10 native English speakers, 10 native Spanish speakers) from each of four grade levels. Students were recorded carrying out an animal picture sorting task in pairs. Twenty tokens of each of the five Spanish vowels, for a total of 100 tokens per subject, were isolated and examined acoustically in order to measure first and second formant values. Analysis reveals that L2 learners of Spanish in the early elementary grades (first and third) differ considerably from their native Spanish-speaking peers. By fifth grade, the vowel space of the L2 learners resembles that of their Spanish-speaking peers in shape, size, and location. These findings will be discussed in light of previous work with other groups of immersion learners as well as adult L2 learners of Spanish.

Conference Name

Hispanic Linguistics Symposium

Conference Location

Bloomington, IN

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