Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 14. Number 1 March 2023                                             Pp.3- 27

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Investigating the Effects of Speaker Variability on Arabic children’s Acquisition of English Vowels

 Wafaa Alshangiti
English Language Institute, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Corresponding Author:

Bronwen G. Evans
Department of Speech, Hearing & Phonetic Sciences, University College London,
London, United Kingdom

Mark Wibrow
Publisher Discovery Ltd, Bath, United Kingdom


Received:10/25/2022         Accepted:02/16/2023                 Published: 03/24/2023


This study investigated whether speaker variability in phonetic training benefits vowel learnability by Arabic learners of English. Perception training using High-Variability stimuli in laboratory studies has been shown to improve both the perception and production of Second Language sounds in adults and children and has become the dominant methodology for investigating issues in Second Language acquisition. Less consideration is given to production training, in which Second Language learners focus on the role of the articulators in producing second language sounds. This study aimed to assess the role of speaker variability by comparing the effect of using High-Variability and Low-Variability stimuli for production training in a classroom setting. Forty-six Arabic children aged 9-12 years were trained on 18 Standard Southern British English vowels in five training sessions over two weeks and were tested before and after training on their vowel production and category discrimination. The results indicate that Low-Variability stimuli may be more beneficial for children, however, High-Variability stimuli may alter some phonetic cues. Furthermore, the results suggest that production training may be used to improve the perception and production of Second Language sounds, but also to inform the design of Second Language pronunciation learning programmes and theories of Second Language acquisition.
Keywords: Arabic Children’s acquisition of English, articulatory training, classroom setting of L2 learning,
production training, vowel learning, speaker variability

Cite as:  Alshangiti, W.,  Evans, B. G., & Wibrow, M.  (2023). Investigating the Effects of Speaker Variability on Arabic children’s Acquisition of English Vowels Arab World English Journal, 14 (1):3-27.


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Received: 10/25/2022
Accepted: 02/16/2023
Published: 03/24/2023 

Wafaa Alshangiti is an Assistant Professor at the English Language Institute, King Abdulaziz University. She teaches English and second language acquisition courses. Her research is focussed on second language speech perception and production.

Bronwen Evans is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech, Hearing & Phonetics, University College London, where she teaches courses and supervises research students in the areas of Phonetics and Sociophonetics. Her research combines theory and methods from phonetics and behavioural psychology to investigate adaptation and learning in a second language or dialect.

Mark Wibrow is a Senior Artificial Intelligence Engineer with Publisher Discovery Ltd, UK. He has a bachelor’s degree in Computational Linguistics, a master’s degree in Computer Science, and a PhD in Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences from University College London.