Unfamiliar Accented English Negatively Affects EFL Listening Comprehension: It Helps to be a More Able Accent Mimic

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cheng, Yu-Lin


Journal of Psycholinguistic Research (2018)






Accent imitation, Accent impact, Chinese-L1, EFL


In this study, EFL learners who listened to four short context-rich audio files each delivered in an unfamiliar English accent were required to produce best-attempt transcriptions and accent imitation recordings. Results indicate that exposure alone does not suffice to eliminate accent impact on EFL listeners. Importantly, results from one-way ANOVA analyses reveal between-participants differences in residual accent impact, vocabulary knowledge, and quality of accent imitation. Results from a linear mixed-effects model analysis, while suggesting that other unidentified factors may also assist EFL listeners in processing unfamiliar accented English, demonstrate that the more able mimics cope more successfully with unfamiliar accents than the less able mimics. Counter-intuitively, vocabulary knowledge is rejected as a predictor for success in reducing accent impact. A logical explanation for this particular finding is that a larger vocabulary repertoire aids listeners where there is no interference from unfamiliar accents. Given these findings, to better prepare EFL listeners for the English-as-an-International-Language world, training should include both listening to a variety of native and non-native accents and performing accent imitation (reproduction) exercises to further expand listeners' phonological-phonetic flexibility.