You sound attractive! Perceptions of accented English in a multilingual environment
Sociolinguistic research on attitudes towards language has revealed that native speakers of English are drawn towards those who share their native accent and respond cautiously, perhaps negatively, towards those speaking in ‘accented’ English (Lambert, Hodgson, Gardner & Fillenbaum, 1960; Rubin, 1992). These perceptions greatly disadvantage migrants in competitive job and educational markets. This study investigated perceptions held by Australian university students learning foreign languages towards lecturers with non-standard English accents. The investigators used a modified matched-guised technique to test students’ responses to speech samples from six speakers, one Australian born and raised and five foreign born and raised. Results contrasted clearly with those of previous studies; students rated those who they heard as ‘accented’ speakers highly in many personality dimensions, suggesting the students’ greater readiness to accept foreign accents. The results highlight the importance of foreign language learning in fostering acceptance of linguistic and cultural difference and in facilitating mutual understanding among groups, particularly in multicultural societies.
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