A Research Study on the English Accents of Students in Two International College Campuses
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Scientific research to date has shown speakers’ imitation in both laboratory and non-laboratory conditions. Still, the possibility of students being attracted by the accent of one speaker, physically present in international College campuses, had not been addressed before. Thus, the aims of this study were to investigate: 1) the likelihood of College students being attracted by the English accent of a single speaker within the same College, and 2) the extent to which the former might have accommodated their English accents towards that of the speaker’s. Students in two international College campuses where English is the lingua franca were chosen, because there speakers interact daily and for more time than in the experimental conditions reported so far. One campus was in the Netherlands and one in Greece. In the Netherlands a survey asked 59 students to name a College person with whom they mostly interacted in English, one whose accent they mostly liked, one whose accent they mostly admired, one whose accent they mostly regarded as similar to theirs, and one whose accent they mostly wished they had had. Participants could name the same College person in all items. Results revealed an agent, very likely to be a student, whose accent was named most times as being liked, admired, regarded as similar, and wished to have. Because that agent was not included in the sample and the aim was to examine potential accent accommodation, an audible feature, a second cohort of subjects was recruited. Thus, a questionnaire asked 16 speakers, students of an international campus in Greece, to name one College person with whom they mostly interacted in English, one whose accent they mostly liked, one whose accent they mostly admired, and one whose accent they mostly wished they had had among other questions. Again the same College person could be named more than once. Speakers were additionally recorded in a controlled reading environment and in a spontaneous speech. Their 28 recordings were judged by 21 listeners, non-related to the speakers, for accent similarity between a speaker’s recording (stimuli X) and either the agent who was named most times in the questionnaire (stimuli A) or a speaker who was named zero times (stimuli B). Results revealed that three agents were named most times, yet only one was included in the sample. That agent was a native Greek speaker and studied abroad, and her recordings were used as stimuli A in the listening test. Thus, the question about the existence of a single speaker whose accent was liked, admired and wished to have was answered positively. Also, four two-tailed chi-square tests of independence showed that the different stimuli X had a statistically significant effect on choosing A’s or B’s recordings. Regarding the possibility of speakers converging their accents to that of a single speaker’s, and given that four speakers named the same agent most times, it was expected that listeners would perceive accent similarity between her and the four speakers who named her. Still, most listeners did not perceive it, and this result could be attributed to the four speakers’ profound Greek accent while speaking English, as well as to the small number of both speakers and listeners.