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Book: Romance-Germanic Bilingual Phonology

Chapter: Factors Affecting L2 Learning across the Lifespan: Spanish Learners of English

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27349


The Speech Learning Model (SLM) (1995; 2003) predicts that learners acquire accurate second language (L2) speech perception and production throughout their lifetime, but that factors like degree of first language (L1) and L2 interaction change with age of acquisition (AOA) and affect learners’ success. The current study tests which and how factors affect L2 learning across the lifespan by examining the relative importance of several factors on L2 speech learning.

Seventy-six Spanish speakers who immigrated to the US at different ages (0-69) participated. The learners’ English global foreign accent and English vowel perception were compared to their scores on tasks of ability to imitate, working memory capacity, and phonological memory (cognitive factors), their attitudes towards L1 and L2 language/culture (social factors), and their age, experience, and L2 use (individual factors). Results demonstrate different factors were important for different AOAs and suggest some changes to the predictions of the SLM.

Flege, J.E. (1995).Second language speech learning: theory, findings, and problems. In W.Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: issues in cross language research (pp. 233–277). Timonium, MD: York Press.

Flege, J.E. (2003). Assessing constraints on second-language segmental production and perception. In A. Meyer & N. Schiller (Eds.), Phonetics and phonology in language comprehension and production (pp. 319–355). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Chapter Contributors

  • Wendy Baker-Smemoe ( - wsmemoe) 'Brigham Young University'