陳翊齊老師 撰文 (Yi-Chi Chen, Adjunct Lecturer of Academic Writing Education Center, NTU)
The Influence of Zhuyin System on Learners' Acquisition of English Phonology
In the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA), there has been increasing interest in the influence of learners' first language (L1) on their interlanguage during the process of acquiring a second language (L2). One important issue in SLA is the aspects from which L1 knowledge can affect the learning process, a phenomenon termed L1 interference. Since it is common that most learners start acquiring the phonology and orthography of L1 before mastering their L2 counterparts, existing knowledge in L1 may interfere with L2 acquisition while decoding L2 sounds.
Buzan (1991, p.18) listed the positive effects of using a mnemonic device (especially if it is based on one's L1) on L2 phonology acquisition, and, in line with Buzan, Bassetti (2008) pointed out that orthographic input in particular could help perceive and realize L2 target phonemes, syllables and words. In her study, Japanese learners of English, by checking whether the target sound contains a or , would be able to produce the correct pronunciation.
However, the learning results of relying on orthographic input may also encompass non-nativelike traits of assimilation, vowel addition, omission or substitution. By analyzing the data elicited from two groups of subjects, Chen (2011) found that while participants who performed the task with the aid of Zhuyin writing system (a set of Mandarin phonetic symbols widely used in Taiwan) could perform better in recognizing English sounds, he also noted that using Zhuyin impeded the production of target sounds being acquired due to the mismatch between the two phonological inventories. To further explore the effects of using Zhuyin writing system on acquiring certain English sounds, this study aimed to investigate how Taiwanese EFL learners, while employing Zhuyin phonetic alphabets to facilitate L2 sound learning, are affected in terms of their L2 phonological production.
Due to the discrepancy between English and Chinese phonological inventories, this study hypothesized that Taiwanese L2 learners of English would have difficulty notating the following sounds: (1) voiced interdental fricative /ð/, (2) voiced labiodental fricative /v/, (3) voiced alveolar fricative /z/, (4) the voiced semivowels palatal /y/ and (5) voiced bilabial nasal /m/, especially when it is in the coda position.
The main emphasis of this study was placed on the extent to which Zhuyin phonological system influenced the pronunciation of English language when the participants were asked to notate the given English sentences only with Zhuyin alphabets.
Involved in this study were 50 adult Taiwanese L2 learners of English who are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. All of them had the experience of using Zhuyin to help themselves learn English at the early stage. As for their English proficiency, all the participants had achieved an overall score of 6.5 or 7.0 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
The present study hypothesized that certain notation(s) would result in non-targetlike pronunciations of five English phones when Zhuyin phonological system was the only way to notate English words for Taiwanese L2 students of English. The results generally showed that using Zhuyin alphabets in substitution for some L2 target phonemes does spawn discrepancies between subjects in notating words. However, unexpected findings were made as well; the voiced semivowel palatal /y/ could be pronounced correctly with Zhuyin, and unexpected findings pointed to Taiwanese students’ difficulty in pronouncing voiced palatal liquid /r/.
This study investigated the negative outcome of learning L2 phones with the assistance of L1 phonetic symbols and inferred the principles underlying learners' choice of Zhuyin characters in replacing certain L2 sounds. Based on the findings, predictable will be what Zhuyin symbols will be used to help Taiwanese learners produce sounds that are acoustically closer to the target phoneme. Nevertheless, the present study has not been complete enough to fashion a tangible solution to this problem yet. Future studies can focus on devising new teaching methods that can assist students who have learnt English pronunciation through Zhuyin characters and who still have difficulty distinguishing certain English consonant pairs. Also, an investigation on means of helping Zhuyin-assisted learners of English acquire more native-like English prosodic structure will be worth conducting for future linguists.
Bassetti, B. (2008). Orthographic input and second language phonology. In Piske, T. and Young-Scholten, M. (eds.), Input Matters in SLA. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, 191-206.
Buzan, T. (1991). Use Both Sides of Your Brain. 1994. New York, NY: Plume. Chen, A. S. W. (2011). The Role of Zhuyin in English Auditory Word Learning. English Teaching & Learning, 35(3), 51-87.