Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Working memory and second language accent acquisition

Summary We explored the proposal that overt repetition of verbal information improves the acquisition of a native accent in a second language. Mandarin‐speaking Chinese learners of English were recorded while repeating and reading out English sentences before and after one of three treatments: (a) repeating native English sentences subvocally, “covert repetition,” (b) repeating sentences out loud, “overt repetition,” and (c) unfilled time of comparable duration. The sentences were rated by English speakers for their nativeness, fluency, and intelligibility. Overt repetition improved accent rating for readout sentences. Covert repetition did not. Neither condition improved accent rating for repeated sentences, suggesting that immediate repetition depends on temporary rather than long‐term representations. Our results provide some support for the use of overt repetition in accent learning. From a theoretical perspective, an interpretation is proposed in terms of a separation between phonological and articulatory coding within the phonological loop component of working memory.

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