British Journal of English Linguistics (BJEL)

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The Relationship between English Language Proficiency Level and Comprehension of Connected Speech Aspects


Despite the fact that connected speech features strongly affect the perception and comprehension of natural spoken language, they have not received proper attention in academic studies. Consequently, little research has focused on the effect of connected speech features on the listening comprehension EFL and ESL learners. The present study tries to fill this gab as it investigates whether the presence of connected speech influences Saudi EFL learners’ listening comprehension. Furthermore, the present study attempts to find out if there is a relationship between the learners’ familiarity with aspects of connected speech on the one hand and their English proficiency on the other hand. To achieve the objectives of the study, sixty-four English majors take part in this study. The participants were classified into three groups (i.e. High- proficiency, mid- proficiency and Low-proficiency) according to the scores obtained in the English Language Proficiency Test. The research instrument was a dictation test consisting of 25 digitally recorded sentences that include the five targeted aspects of connected speech. The participants took a dictation test which asked them to write down the sentences read with and without connected speech. Independent t-test results showed that the presence of connected speech features significantly affected the subjects’ listening comprehension. The presence of connected speech imposes a negative impact upon listening comprehension by the Saudi learners of English. This negative influence was observed in all groups of different proficiency levels. In addition, the results indicated that the high-proficiency level students performed significantly better than the mid- proficiency level students. Low-proficiency level students often lagged far behind. Further, the indication garnered from t-test results revealed that there were interactions between the proficiency level of the students and the types of connected speech patterns. In other words, the higher students’ proficiency level was, the better they could detect the connected speech patterns used in the natural speech flow. Last, elision and intrusion proved to be the most difficult aspects of connected speech for all the participants

Keywords: English reduced forms, Listening Comprehension, Proficiency Level, connected speech

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