Spanish vowel Perception by Korean Learners of Spanish: Korean Learners do not Perceive Spanish ‘O’ as ‘O’


  • JOO KYEONG KIM Seoul National University



Vowel, L1 Korean-L2 Spanish, L2 perception, Speech Learning Model.


This paper examines Spanish vowel perception by Korean learners. According to Speech Learning Model (Flege, 1987, 1992, 1995; Bohn &Flege, 1992), L2 phones can be classified into three categories, ‘new’, ‘similar’, and ‘identical’. Many studies have found that in the long run, ‘similar’ phones cause the most trouble for L2 learners. Generally, Spanish vowels are believed to have one-to-one correspondence with Korean, making them straight-forward to learn. In contrast, using experimental phonetics measures, it was discovered that the two vowel systems do have considerable differences. Thus, Spanish vowels should be considered as ‘similar’ phones, rather than ‘identical’. In order to investigate whether the learners and the native speakers demonstrate some differences in Spanish vowel perception, an experiment utilizing synthesized sounds was carried out. There were three groups of subjects, with one native speaker (NS) group and two Korean speaker (KS) groups depending on the amount of L2 experience. For the experiment, four continua (/a/-/o/, /e/-/i/, /e/-/a/, and /?/-/o/-/u/) were synthesized. The fourth continuum was designed in a more complex way, in order to contain the points of articulation for not only Spanish /o/ and /u/ but also Korean /?/, /o/, and /u/. The subjects chose the closest Spanish vowel for each synthesized sound. The results reinforced the SLM’s argument that similar phones are difficult to learn. KS surely perceived Spanish vowels in a different manner from NS. Against our initial predictions, however, the results did not support the learning effect.


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