This study assesses the claim that English late learners of Spanish do not perceive stress like native Spanish speakers, and that a short targeted stress perception training intervention during a study abroad Spanish language course has clear positive effects on stress perception. Fifteen English speakers were exposed to 90 hours of Spanish lessons during a three–week study abroad experience in Mar del Plata, Argentina. The trained group (N = 8) received 10 minutes of perceptual training on vowel and stress contrasts with nonce words three days a week, while the L1 English control group (N = 7) received communicative training focused on consonants, and the native Spanish control group (N = 7) received no training. Participants’ perception was assessed at pretest and posttest, both consisting of identification tasks with nonce words. Results indicated that all English speakers experienced difficulties in perceiving Spanish stress when compared to native Spanish speakers in the pretest. At posttest, however, the English trained group performed comparably to the native Spanish group and differed significantly from the control group, indicating an effect of training on the perception of L2 stress. The results show that English speakers evidenced perceptual difficulties when learning Spanish stress, which could be overcome with a small dose of targeted training with nonce words. Even though L2 immersion in a study abroad context was beneficial for the acquisition of Spanish stress, only students receiving stress training performed like native speakers.
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