How do second language listeners perceive the comprehensibility of foreign-accented speech? Roles of first language profiles, second language proficiency, age, experience, familiarity and metacognition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Kazuya Saito
  • Mai Tran
  • Yui Suzukida
  • Viktoria Magne
  • Meltem Ilkan

External organisations

  • University of West London
  • University College London
  • Birkbeck, University of London


The current study examines how second language (L2) users differentially assess the comprehensibility (i.e., ease of understanding) of foreign-accented speech according to a range of background variables, including first language (L1) profiles, L2 proficiency, age, experience, familiarity, and metacognition. A total of 110 L2 listeners first evaluated the global comprehensibility of 50 spontaneous speech samples produced by low-, mid-, and high-proficiency Japanese speakers of English. The listeners were categorized into two subgroups according to a cluster analysis of their rating scores: lenient and strict. Results showed that while the lenient listeners appeared to rely equally on many linguistic areas of speech during their judgments, the strict listeners were strongly attuned to phonological accuracy. Analysis of the background questionnaire data revealed that more lenient listeners likely had higher levels of awareness of the importance of comprehensibility for communication (metacognition); regularly used L2 English in professional settings (experience); and had L1s more linguistically close to the target speech samples, Japanese-accented English (L1-L2 distance).


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Early online date16 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2019
Externally publishedYes