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Communication in the Global University:

A Longitudinal Study of Language Adaptation 

at Multiple Timescales in Native- and Non-Native Speakers

Introduction

International graduate students make essential contributions to the excellence, vitality, and diversity of U.S. universities. This is especially true in STEM fields, where international teaching assistants (ITAs) play a critical role in the instructional mission. However, sometimes undergraduates have difficulty understanding their instructors' accents; and ITAs may experience trepidation at a perceived lack of engagement on the part of undergraduates. This project systematically examines the scientific bases of communication, misunderstanding, and language adaptation between native and non-native speakers of English in the context of STEM higher education. 

 The major goals of the project are:

  1. To study language and communicative development of graduate students newly arrived to the U.S., for whom English is a second language. 
  2. To study native-English-speaking undergraduate students' adaptation to the foreign-accented speech of ITAs.
  3. To engage students (both graduate and undergraduate, and both native speakers and non-native speakers of English) in improving their language and communication skills.

The project's activities include (a) a longitudinal study of ITAs' English language development, (b) experimental studies of an intervention to improve native-English-speaking listeners' adaptation to foreign-accented English, (c) other experimental studies and linguistic analyses of speech perception and production that involve native- and non-native speakers of English. Some of these experiments and analyses are ongoing.

This website contains sharable data collected longitudinally using multiple methods and tasks, from 114 non-native speakers of English. The speakers were ITAs (international teaching assistants) enrolled in STEM Ph.D. programs at Stony Brook University on Long Island, NY.  Each participated for two years in one of three waves of data collection between 2015 and 2019, beginning shortly after arriving in the U.S. from their home country.  Each completed repeated assessments and provided recordings at regular intervals over four semesters, resulting in a variety of types of data. Because Mandarin is the most common native language spoken by ITAs at Stony Brook, five sets of "baseline" data were collected from 68 Mandarin speakers (upon arrival, and at the end of each of the next four semesters). A total of 58 completed all 5 baselines and an additional 7 completed all but one baseline, for an attrition rate of 4%. From the 46 native speakers of other languages (Farsi, Korean, Russian, Bengali, Vietnamese, Spanish, Urdu, Azerbaijani, French, Hindi, Italian, Marathi, Portuguese, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, and Ukrainian, three sets of data were collected (upon arrival, and at the end of the first and second academic years, with an attrition rate of 17%). Each data collection session lasted approximately 2 hours. Survey data were collected as well, but are not released here due to privacy concerns. Some of the ITAs also participated in ethnographic recordings during which they were observed teaching students in lab classes, holding office hours, or holding a recitation section; transcripts of those sessions are available (but videos are not released due to privacy concerns).

Data are available from the following tasks:

 

 

Task

Data Format

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Speakers

Reading from a word list

Focus dialogues

Spontaneous speech

Ethnographic transcripts

spreadsheet (.xlsx)

sound files (.wav)

sound files (.wav)

sound files (.wav)

.pdf

Results are reported in the following papers and presentations:

Journals or Juried Conference Papers

Zheng, Y., & Samuel, A. G. (2017). Does seeing an Asian face make speech sound more accented? Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 79, 1841–1859.

Kao, S., Hwang, J., Baek, H., Takahashi, C. & Broselow, E. (2017). International teaching assistants’ production of English focus marking. Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, 26, 1–13.

Takahashi, C., Kao, S., Baek, H., Yeung, A., Hwang, J. & Broselow, E. (2018). Native and non-native speaker processing and production of contrastive focus prosody. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America, 3, 1–13 .  

Samuel, A.G. & Zheng, Y. (2019). The Relationship between Category Boundary Changes and Perceptual Adjustments to Natural Accents. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 2019 advance online publication.  https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000788

Zheng, Y. & Samuel A.G. (2019). How Much do Visual Cues Help Listeners in Perceiving Accented Speech? Applied Psycholinguistics, 40, 93109.

Yeung, A., Baek, H., Takahashi, C., Hwang, J., & Broselow, E. (2019). Pitch range, intensity, and vocal fry in non-native and native English focus intonation. In Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics 36(1), 060004.

Yeung, A., Baek, H., Takahashi, C., Buttner, S., Hwang, J., & Broselow, E. (2020). Too little, too late: A longitudinal study of English corrective focus by Mandarin speakers. In Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 5(1), 270-281.

Hwang, J., Takahashi, Ch., Baek, H., Yeung, A.,& Broselow, E. (Under review). Prosody without segments: processing of English contrastive prosody by L1-English and L1- Mandarin listeners.

Hwang, J., Brennan, S. E., & Kim, S. (Upcoming). International teaching assistants' English language development during their first two years in the U.S. (Brownbag Talk)

Charoy, J., Takahashi, C., Huffman, M., Hendrickson, J., Napoli, E., & Brennan, S. E. (Upcoming). Adapting to foreign-accented speech after a brief intervention. Abstracts of the Psychonomic Society, 60th Annual Meeting (   p. 141 ), Montreal, Canada. 

Other Conference Presentations / Papers

Kao, S., Takahashi, C., Hwang, J., Baek, H., & Broselow, E. (2016). Pitch alignment and intensity cues in Mandarin speakers’ production of English corrective focus. The 2nd workshop on Second Language Prosody (SLaP 2). University of Graz, Graz, Austria.

Kao, S., Hwang, J., Baek, H., Takahashi, C. & Broselow, E. (2016). International Teaching Assistants’ Production of Focus Intonation. Poster presented at the 171st Meeting, Acoustical Society of America. Salt Lake City, UT.

Kao, S., Hwang, J., Baek, H., Takahashi, C. & Broselow, E. (2016). Longitudinal Study of International Teaching Assistants' Focus Prosody. Second Language Research Forum (SLRF 2016). Teachers' College, Columbia University. NY, NY.

Zheng, Y., & Samuel, A. G. (2016). Does Seeing an Asian Face Make Speech Sound More Accented? 57th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society (p. 263). Boston, MA.

Baek, H., Takahashi, C., Kao, S., Yeung, A.H.L., Broselow, E., & Hwang, J. (2017). Processing and production of English focus prosody by L1 vs. L2 speakers. 3rd Workshop on Second Language Prosody, November 9-10. Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, UK.

Brennan, S., Hwang, J., Kim, S., & He, A. (2017). Language Development in Non-Native-English-Speaking Teaching Assistants. 58th Annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society (p. 58). Vancouver, Canada.

He, A. W., Kim, S., Hwang, J., & Brennan, S. E. (2017). Communication between bilingual Chinese ITAs and undergraduate students. International Symposium on Bilingualism, June 11-15. Limerick, Ireland.

Huffman, M., Schuhmann, K., Keller, K., & Chen, C. (2017). Assimilatory and dissimilatory L1 English vowel drift in early learners of Japanese. Poster presented at the Acoustical Society of America and Acoustics 17 joint meeting. Boston, MA, USA.

Kim, S., Hwang, J., He, A. W., & Brennan, S. (2017). Language Adaptation and Metacognition in Non-Native-English- Speaking Teaching Assistants: A Longitudinal Study. Eastern Sociological Society Annual Conference. Philadelphia, PA.

Kim, S., & He, A. W. (2017). Communicative Challenges & Adaptation of Chinese ITAs. AIEA Thematic Forum. Stony Brook University, NY.

Schuhmann, K., & Huffman, M. (2017). Interaction of drift and distinctiveness in L1 English-L2 Japanese learners. Poster presented at the Acoustical Society of America and Acoustics 17 joint meeting. Boston, MA.

Takahashi, C., Baek, H., Kao, S. & Yeung, A (2017). Processing and production of English focus prosody by native English vs. Mandarin speakers. Poster presented at Processing Prosody across Languages, Varieties, and Nativeness Workshop (ProPro Workshop). Tübingen, Germany.

Takahashi, C., Kao, S., Baek, H., Yeung, A.H.L., Huffman, M., Broselow, E. & Hwang, J. (2017). English Focus Prosody Processing and Production by Mandarin Speakers. Poster presented at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. New Orleans, Louisiana.

He, A.W. & Hwang, J. (2018). A Narrative-Ethnographic Study of ITA Language Development. American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference. Chicago.

Baek, H., Hwang, J., Takahashi, C., Yeung, A.H.L., Duncan, J., Benedett, S., Broselow E. (2019). Are non-native speakers better at producing contrastive focus? 4th Intonation Workshop at the University of Toronto. Toronto, Canada.

Broselow, E. (2019). Native and non-native differences in producing and processing contrastive focus. Focus. Invited Talk. University of Leiden, The Netherlands.

Broselow, E. (2019). Learning prosody in a typologically different language. Invited Talk. Gothenburg University, Sweden.

Charoy, J., Takahashi, C., Huffman, M., Hendrickson, J., & Brennan, S. E. (2019). Adapting to Foreign-Accented Speech After a Brief Intervention. Abstracts of the Psychonomic Society, 60th Annual Meeting ( p. 141), Montreal, Canada.

Broselow, E., Hwang, J., Baek, H., Takahashi, C., Yeung, A.H.L. (2019). The use of focus prosody by L1 English speakers and Mandarin-English bilinguals. Invited Talk. University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Takahashi, C., Yeung, A.H.L., Baek, H., Broselow, E., Hwang, J. (2019). Processing prosody without segments: native vs. non-native speakers. The 93rd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. New York, NY.

Yeung, A.H.L., Baek, H., Takahashi, C., Duncan, J., Benedett, S., Hwang, J., Broselow, E. (2019). Pitch range, intensity, and vocal fry in non-native and native English focus intonation. 177th Meeting, Acoustical Society of America.

Theses/Dissertations

Baek, H. (expected, 2020).   Prosodic resolution of syntactic ambiguity in first and second languages. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Stony Brook University.     

Charoy, J. (2017). Referential Communication Between Native- and Non-native Speakers: Effects upon Foreign-accented Speech Comprehension. Unpublished Master's thesis. Stony Brook University.

Zheng, Y. (2019). The Relationship Between Phonemic Category Boundary Changes and Perceptual Adjustments to Natural Accents. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Stony Brook University.

Charoy, J. (expected, 2020). Accommodations to Non-Native Speech and Perceptual Recalibration . Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Stony Brook University.     

 

This material is based upon work supported by NSF under Grant # IBSS-1519908

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