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Language Resource Center Speaker Series - Dustin Crowther

Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Virtual Event

"Addressing Speech Comprehensibility in the Second Language Classroom: What 25 Years of Research Might Tell Us About Classroom Pedagogy"
Dustin Crowther
Assistant Professor of Second Language Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 

In his 2005 publication, John Levis highlighted the importance of promoting intelligible rather than nativelike speech as a target for second language (L2) pronunciation learning (and, more broadly, L2 speaking development). Broadly speaking, intelligibility refers to how well listeners understand L2 speech (Levis, 2006). However, "understanding" has frequently been operationalized via two dimensions, firmly established in Munro and Derwing (1995). Intelligibility (here used in a narrow sense) refers to listeners' accuracy of understanding, frequently measured through learners' word- and sentence-level transcriptions. Comprehensibility refers to the effort required by listeners to understand L2 speech, primarily measured using Likert scale ratings. Though a focus on accuracy over effort may be initially tempting to L2 teachers and researchers, Kennedy and Trofimovich (2019) argue that L2 comprehensibility not only provides a practical and reliable approach to analyzing listeners' perception of L2 speech, it also takes into account listeners' in-the-moment understanding of and reactions to L2 speech. As such, it is not surprising that, in the 25 years since Munro and Derwing, we have seen an increased scholarly emphasis in L2 speech comprehensibility.

This presentation will provide a timeline of L2 comprehensibility research conducted in the 25 years since Munro and Derwing's (1995) seminal publication, with a strong emphasis on classroom implications. Though L2 comprehensibility research has focused primarily on L2 English speech, recent scholarship has extended to a range of world languages, including French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. To elaborate on recent scholarship, I will discuss four of my own studies (Crowther, 2020; Crowther et al., 2015, 2016, 2018), how they each fit into current trends in comprehensibility research, and how each can inform future pedagogical practices. Finally, I will consider how understanding comprehensibility can inform the larger practice of speaking instruction in the L2 classroom.

Bio: Dustin Crowther is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. His primary research agenda emphasizes the attainment of intelligible speech for additional language speakers, inclusive of both speaker- and listener-based variables. Specifically, he takes into account the linguistic and intercultural considerations that define native-nonnative and nonnative-nonnative interaction. Given the increased global spread of English, much of his current research is informed by scholarship derived from Global Englishes. His research has been published in leading journals such as The Modern Language Journal, Studies in Second Language Acquisition, and TESOL Quarterly. As an experienced English language instructor, his long-term scholarly objective is to link research to pedagogy. Dr. Crowther additionally emphasizes the promotion of methodological rigor within applied linguistics research, as seen in recent publications in Language Learning and Studies in Second Language Acquisition. Dr. Crowther currently serves as the Editor for Research Dissemination for TESOL Quarterly

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