The Most Attractive English Accent

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Introduction
Despite differences in languages, there are still a number of differences between the accents of a language. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, accent, in terms of sociolinguistics, is defined as the unique manner of pronunciation to a specific individual, region or nation. (Oxford University Press, 2005) Lippi, the author of English With an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, believes that accents identify nationalities, socio-economic status, social class and more characteristics of speakers. (Lippi-Green, 1997) This study aims to investigate the most recognizable and attractive accent to English learners (Non-native speakers) among 10 different accents (American, British, Chinese, French, Indian, Irish, Italian, Russian, Scottish and Spanish). It is hypothesized that both male and female non-native speakers are attracted to British accent the most. In addition, Hongkongers score the least in accents recognition while both Russians and Italians distinguished the most among all participants. The third hypothesis states that the American accent is the easiest accent to be identified.

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Method
Attitudes Towards Accented Speech:
A Comparative Study Of Native And Non-Native Speakers Of American English by Selim Ben Said, the study which is the basis of my own study, conducted the research using a focus group format. Five different accents, Romanian, Bulgarian, Arabic, Spanish and Mandarin were recorded from five male and female providers respectively. The recordings were, then, played to the participants anonymously in order to let the group rate from 1 – 5 on aspects of pleasant, friendliness, refinement, ease of understanding, confidence and other feelings according to each accent. Furthermore, two qualitative questions, for instance ‘To what extent do you agree that you want to hear a non-native speaker speaks your language without a flaw and accent?’ were asked to participants in order to get more detail information. Two groups of participants with 32 native speakers and 39 non-native speakers respectively took part of the focus group in separate rooms so as to make sure no influences from either group affected their answers.

Using a similar method, a simpler and more comprehensible questionnaire was tailor-made for EF students who joined the focus group for this research. The number of accents is increased to ten including American, British, Irish and Scottish which English is their mother tongue and Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Russian, Spanish. The 10 recordings were all collected from the Internet (YouTube) mainly from TV shows and movies while a few of them were found in some personal YouTube channel. (See Appendix) However, qualitative questions were removed on account of the participants’ language abilities as it could be challenging to comprehend and express in a second language flawlessly, therefore, quantitative method was used on this occasion instead of the mixed method which was used in the original study. Nevertheless, procedures of the focus group remained unchanged. Having listened carefully to the recordings collected from the Internet, participants were required to identify all ten accents respectively, and hence, rate them from 1 – 5 according to their feelings towards these accents. The sample size was chosen from two random classes at EF, consisted of Angolan Chinese, Hongkonger, Italian, Kazakh, Nigerian, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian, with a total of 27 people. The imbalanced proportion of nationalities at EF can explain the extremely uneven number of participants of each nationality and gender. Figure 1.1

Without picking participants in a specific preference, all of them were completely unfamiliar to the task that to be fulfilled. The focus group was done in approximately ten minutes differentiating slightly according to their answer pace. Moreover, only nationalities, ages and genders of participants were required...
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