"Oral communication is a two-way process, involving a message sender and receiver. In telecommunications, a good technician can often efficiently repair a faulty signal. However, when it comes to human information exchange, and particularly when interlocutors are from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, troubleshooting the unsuccessful transmission of a message is a more abstract and complex process. This is because myriad linguistic and non-linguistic factors interact to facilitate or hinder successful communication. My research, which seeks to elucidate different facets of this complex problem, is grounded in the goal of identifying the aspects of second language (L2) speech that are most important for achieving effective cross-cultural communication. A mixed-methods approach will be used to accomplish four major research goals: (1) ""disentangle"" the aspects of L2 speech that, while noticeable or distracting, have little bearing on listener understanding, as opposed to those that genuinely impede communication, (2) validate an L2 comprehensibility scale, originally developed in the Canadian context, for use on UK campuses, (3) examine the potential biasing effects of listeners’ social variables on their ratings of L2 pronunciation, and finally (4) investigate the effects of haphazard peer-pairing practices on test-takers’ performance on collaborative tasks, particularly with respect to phonological accommodations. Taken together, this research will address the pressing social-educational challenges of reducing language barriers and improving the oral communication skills of newcomers, in order to facilitate their social integration. With the support of the Marie Curie CIG, I will establish a state-of-the-art L2 speech laboratory. This facility, which is crucial for conducting high-caliber L2 pronunciation research, will put the University of Bristol on the map as a center of emerging research strength in this area both within Europe and internationally."
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