Mother tongue and pronunciation of English vowels: A case of secondary school students in Kisoro District
Second Language vowels have rarely been adequately described. This research aimed at quantifying and describing the resultant “foreign” accent among Bafumbira English secondary school students. The study wanted to establish L1 impact on: the vowel system, vowel quality, and distributional features of English vowels. Subjects were recorded; their speech acoustically measured, and compared to Standard British vowels. According to results, bilingual speakers maintained a five-vowel system; instead of the eleven distinctive vowel-target. Save for DRESS, KIT and TRAP vowels, speakers’ vowel quality were different from the target Standard British vowels. Syllable peak simplification through glide insertion was not as wide spread as some researchers had claimed; indicating some degree of learning. To understand speakers’ inability to create new categories (as Speech Learning Model would predict), the role of dynamic vowel properties and F0 in English vowel perception need to be established first – before the concept of “new” or “similar” can be defined. The researcher recommends creating learners’ awareness of L1 and L2 vowel distinctions to alleviate pronunciation errors. English orthography (due to its consistency) and acoustic phonetics software can be exploited to highlight the difference.