The Influence of Stereotype Threat on Non-Native Accented Speaker’s Communication Skills in Institutions of Higher Education
The Influence of Stereotype Threat on Non-Native Accented Speaker’s Communication Skills in Institutions of Higher Education
*Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Lebanese University, Lebanon
Correspondence: Assistant Prof. Maya Bazhouni, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Lebanese University, Lebanon.
A non-native accent is an expression that is popularly employed to denote the characteristics of second-language speech that distinguishes it from that of native speakers of a certain group of people. Accents can influence the listeners’ perceptions and evaluations of the speaker’s personal qualities, and they serve as a signal for an outgroup. The objective of the present study was to examine the effect of stereotype threat on communication skills of non-native accented students in institutions of higher learning. The integrative review led to the selection of twenty-three studies, encompassing eleven experimental, four qualitative, and one mixed-methods sources, four quantitative surveys, and three integrative reviews. The findings showed that non-native accented speeches are perceived as less comprehensible, incorrect, and untrustworthy than native accented ones. These negative perceptions cause foreign-accented students to limit interactions with native speakers, which reduces their chances to hone their communication skills. In addition, the study reported that non-native accents invoke feelings of anxiety among second-language speakers, which further affirm the stereotype threat Notably, anxious students tend to make numerous errors, which reflect them as incomprehensible and lacking language proficiency.
Keywords: non-native accented students, communication skills, stereotype, language proficiency, accents, native speakers.
Recent data from the United Nations indicates that beyond 200 million individuals reside in a foreign country (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, 2013). Heightened networking through communication technologies, globalization process, and migration flows has amplified job acquisition overseas, suggesting mounting interactions among people from diverse linguistic settings (Russo, Islam, & Koyuncu, 2017). Empirical studies conducted in the fields of marketing, organizational psychology, management, and linguistics report that peoples’ accents substantially affect office behaviors (Holmqvist & Gro¨nroos, 2012; Huang, Frideger, & Pearce, 2013; Gluszek & Dovidio, 2010).
An accent is described as the way of articulation that is specific to a group of people, and it is among the most pervasive linguistic signals employed in constructing social categories (Souza, Byers-Heinlein, & Poulin-Dubois, 2013). Non-native accent, on the other hand, is one of the striking identifiers of individuals from other communities who come to study, work, or live in a host country. It distinguishes, and probably pillories, foreigners as not native-born (Gluszek & Dovidio, 2010). Accents can shape the audience’s perceptions and evaluations of the speaker’s personal qualities (Souza, Byers-Heinlein, & Poulin-Dubois, 2013). According to Kinzler, Shutts, DeJesus, and Spelke (2009), non-native accent acts as an indication that a person belongs to an outgroup and does not use the learned language confidently, irrespective of the individuals’ actual mastery. The lack of perceived language fluency, subsequently, engenders a myriad of adverse repercussions that vary from performance to psychological decline. As per Dietz (2010), such discriminatory practices or expressions may be less recognized than conventionally researched types of prejudices towards foreigners, since unbiased communication challenges are fabricated to justify enlistment-associated choices, thus, chastising non-native accented speakers.
- Statement of Problem
The influences of linguistic diversity on educational outcomes, and on occupational and organizational psychology are numerous; however, they have attracted limited scholarly focus compared to other types of discriminations, such as racial and ethnic bigotry (Holmqvist & Gronroos, 2012; Huang et al., 2013; Russo et al., 2017). Furthermore, researchers have paid more attention to native and non-native language aptitude when exploring linguistic multiplicity instead of looking at the impacts of non-native intonations (Gluszek & Dovidio, 2010). Russo et al. (2017) submit that linguistic scholars differentiate accent from proficiency even though pronunciations and proficiency in the second language can engender shared reactions among speakers and listeners. This is due to the fact that both non-native inflections and low levels of language expertise signify prospective disparaging conditions for individuals. Specifically, accents involve phonology, intonation, and pronunciation guidelines that individuals acquire from their mother tongue, while proficiency entails showing mastery of the language skills. For instance, English second language (ESL) speakers with a good command of English can still be confronted with prejudice, since they often maintain the accent and phonology of their native language, making the pronunciation of words an overlooked perceptive element in multicultural institutions of higher education, as well as in workplaces. Besides, few studies have focused on the perspectives of native and non-native speakers towards the influence of non-native accents on their communication skills (Dawson, 2013). Therefore, the findings of the current investigation will fill the existing gap in literature and reveal the perceptions of non-native and native English speakers on their interactions.
1.2 Research Objective
The primary goal of the present research paper is to explore the role of the influence of stereotype threat on the communication skills of non-native accented speakers in the institutions of higher education.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
As outlined earilier, non-native accents are among the most salient features of foreign individuals who migrate and live, school, or get employment in a host nation that isolates and probably denounces them as non-native born (Gluszek & Dovidio, 2010). In addition, foreign accents act as signals that the accented speaker belongs to outgroup and, by extension, that one lacks English competency irrespective of the person’s actual English knowledge. In turn, the negative perception towards non-native English fluency of a person poses numerous implications that vary from academic to psychological. Thus, the current investigation will illustrate the role of stereotype threats in learning and using English language among non-natives. The thematic analysis of existing studies will aid in shedding light on what language stereotypes both non-native and native English speakers have towards accented English.
1.3a Definition of Terms
Accent: The way of articulation that is specific to a group of people
Native speaker: A person who speaks English as a first language
Non-native accent: Disparate articulation of consonants and vowels by English second-language speakers, and an alteration in tone and stress that is observed when compared to a native dialect.
Non-native speakers: English second-language speakers.
Stereotype threat: The risk of affirming a negative typecast about one’s group.
- Methodology of the Research
2.1 Research Design
An integrative review research framework was adopted to explore the impacts of stereotype threat on communication proficiencies of non-native speakers in higher education. According to Whittemore and Knafl (2005), an integrative review involves the process of summarizing existing theoretical or scientific studies to develop an extensive comprehension of a social phenomenon. The authors add that integrative reviews contribute to the development of theories and have straightforward applicability to policy and practice. In Evans and Pearson’s (2001) perspective, integrative reviews facilitate the inclusion of a myriad of research methodologies, encompassing both non-experimental and interventional studies, and have the prospect of playing a heightened role in empirical-proved practices in social sciences.
2.2 Search Strategy
To select the appropriate articles to be synthesized in the integrative appraisal, five electronic databases, namely: Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), EBSCOHost, ProQuest, JSTOR, GoogleScholar, and MEDLINE, were combed for primary investigations addressing the issues of accented language, stereotype threat, and communication skills in higher education. The search approach entailed the application of a combination of the following keywords: “non-native accents,” OR “foreign-accented speech,” AND “native speech,” OR “first-language speech.” AND “stereotype threat,” AND “university education,” OR “higher education,” OR “post-secondary education.” In addition, the researcher complemented the digital search with the screening of reference lists of the electronic sources for additional papers. The search was limited to English peer-reviewed articles issued between January 2000-July 2019.
- Theoretical Framework
Stereotype Threat Model. Stereotype threat is described as the danger of affirming a negative typecast about one’s group (Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003). The stereotype threat model (STM) was formerly proposed by Spencer, Steele, and Quinn (1999), and it presumes that the relevance of negative labels in testing scenarios demoralizes the productivity and performance of the individuals in the pigeonholed groups by exacerbating intrusive pressure; the burden of one’s actions being evaluated by or observed as approving the negative typecast (Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003). Smith (2004) describes stereotype threat as a situational encounter whereby a person feels pressured and susceptible by the prospect of approving or being appraised by a typecast. As a result, neutralizing the applicability of the stereotype should disregard the aforementioned pressure and the consequent underperformance of the pigeon-holed group. Smith (2004) adds that the intimidating experience engenders decrements in performance even among individuals with excellent mastery of the second languages. According to O’Brien and Crandall (2013), the STM hypothesizes that the influence of stereotype threat potentially occurs in events where the test stretches the capacity of the individual to the limit (often when the exam comprises of items of a high level of difficulty), when the ability is subjected to appraisal inspection, and when the test performance has a negative label.
The proponents of the STM framework reputed that stereotype threat is inclined to influence a group of people who are often identified by the domain of interest, and it has the least tendency to affect those individuals who are not bothered by the domain in question (O’Brien & Crandall, 2013; Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003). For instance, it was demonstrated by two experiments that the comprehension and presentation of math among women with a strong mastery of math could be enhanced by disregarding the relevancy of the popular perception that female students are weak in math (Spencer et al., 1999). In the present investigation, the STM envisages that non-native inflections can foster partial appraisals and prompt ethnic and cultural stereotypes as well as biased evaluations of language and professional skills.
4.1 Characteristics of the Selected Studies
Twenty-four studies (n=23) that met the inclusion bechmarks were selected for review, including four (n=4) quantitative surveys (Fuse, Navichkova, & Alloggio, 2018; Tsurutani, 2012; Park, Klieve, Tsurutani, & Harte, 2017; Kesen & Aydın, 2014; Kaur & Raman, 2014), four (n=4) qualitative investigations, (Russo et al., 2017; Lindemann, 2005; Aichhorn & Puck, 2017; Oorbreek, 2017), one (n=1) mixed methods (Tum, 2012), three (n=3) integrative reviews (Smith, 2004; Lacina, 2002; Hegarty, 2014), and eleven (n=11) investigations that espoused experimental research framework (Huang et al., 2013; Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003; Forbes, Duran, Leitner, & Magerman 2015; Hendriks, van Meurs, & Reimer, 2018; Dixon, Mahoney, & Cocks 2002; Lev-Ari & Keysar, 2010; Eisenchlas & Tsurutani, 2011; Kinzler, Shutts, DeJesus, & Spelke, 2009; DeJesus, Hwang, Dautel, & Kinzler, 2017; Kinzler, Shutts, & Spelke, 2012; Cohen & Haun, 2013) (see table 1 below).
The synthesis of the findings resulted in the identification of three emerging themes that illustrate how stereotype threat shapes communication skills of non-native accented individuals in post-secondary education. These include: 1) non-native accented speeches are perceived as less comprehensible, 2) non-native accents limit interactions with native speakers, and 3) non-native accents invoke feelings of anxiety among second-language speakers.
Table 1: Summary of findings
|(Fuse et al., 2018)||To examine the correlation between the exactness that listeners can comprehend non-native speech and their perceptions of the qualities of the speaker||Online survey||Monolingual native English listeners rated NNE accents as less coherent and less intelligible, while bilingual native English speakers rated it more comprehensible||Exposure to multiple languages confer listeners with an enhanced perceptual benefit when evaluating fluency of non-native speech|
|(Tsurutani, 2012)||To explore the perceptions of native Japanese on non-native accented Japanese’s social status, employment, and personality||Quantitative study||Non-natives with heavier accents received lower scores for personal qualities, like patience, competence, and intelligence, compared to individuals with no accents.|
|(Park, Klieve, Tsurutani, & Harte, 2017)||To investigate the communication difficulties resulting from accented English and the interventions espoused by international apprentices to curb the negative effects among ESLs in Australia||Quantitative research
(Online and paper-based surveys)
|Students perceived as intelligible users of English were rarely confronted by communication challenges associated with accented speech, such as mispronunciations.||Participation in speech-based teaching activities in the academic arena|
|(Kinzler, Shutts, DeJesus, & Spelke, 2009)||To examine the influence of language and accents on social preferences of five-year-old children||Experimental study
|The observed children tended to prefer interacting with friends with native accents than non-native associates. This implies that the preference for one’s native accent begins in childhood, indicating that an accent is an influential outgroup signal irrespective of social connotations||Unlike other studies, the observed children did not perceive non-native accents as unintelligible|
|(Eisenchlas & Tsurutani, 2011)||To explore the perceptions of Australian university students to professors’ non-native English accents||Experimental study||Contrary to other studies, the native Australian students evaluated accented lecturers positively on personality antecedents, indicative of the learners’ heightened willingness to accept non-native accents.||The authors underscored the significance of learning a foreign language to foster approval of cultural and linguistic disparity and enable shared comprehension among native and non-native populations.|
|(Lev-Ari & Keysar, 2010)||To examine the perception of native speakers towards the second language speakers’ credibility||Experimental study||Most non-native intonations can cause speakers to appear less trustworthy than native speakers for various reasons||An accent may diminish the trustworthiness of non-native news anchors, reporters, students, eyewitnesses, and job seekers, among others|
|Dixon, Mahoney, & Cocks 2002)||To explore the role of non-native accents on the attribution of guilt||Matched-guise approach||Non-native accented suspects were judged as significantly more culpable than natives, and the ascriptions of liability were substantially linked with the accused’s conceived social attractiveness and superiority.||It is important to note that, at times, foreign-accented individuals may be alleged as guiltier conpared to native suspects since the former’s accent makes their testimony appear less credible.|
|(Oorbreek, 2017)||To bearing of accented speech on the trustworthiness of international exchange programs in higher education||Observational study||Native students experienced challenges in comprehending speeches from ESL lecturers||There is a need to confer students with techniques and tools to interact and collaborate in multicultural settings|
|(Hendriks, van Meurs, & Reimer (2018)||To examine the appraisal of German and Dutch instructors with slight and modest foreign accents with respect to their teaching quality, intelligibility, competence, and likeability by their Dutch and German students||Experimental study||Slight foreign-accented tutors received relatively positive scores on all the four variables compared to moderate and heavy accented NNEs||It is prudent for NNEs tutors engaged in EMI to take part in pronunciation training to reduce manifestations of heavy and moderate NNE accents|
|(Hegarty, 2014)||To explore the experiences of foreign students in international universities||Integrative review||Non-native accents cause foreign students to avoid interacting with natives|
|(Huang et al., 2013)||To test the various reasons underlying the glass ceiling partialities affecting non-native accented individuals in their workplaces||Experimental study||Non-native accents cause speakers to be anxious, which in turn make them incur errors, and subsequently affirming the stereotype threat||Perceptions of political skill tend to be an influential, unrecognized aspect that plays a key role in glass-ceiling effects|
|(Lacina, 2002)||To examine the social difficulties encountered by international students in the U.S.||Integrative review||Stigma expressed towards accented non-native students can delay their adjustment on campus||Cross-cultural counseling|
|(Aichhorn & Puck, 2017)||To explore the emotional difficulties associated with the espousal of the English language as a corporate language for multinational companies||Qualitative case study||ESL speakers encounter anxiety when communicating with EFL irrespective of their English competence levels||Although English can be employed to facilitate both written and spoken, informal and formal interaction, it engenders an influential emotional impediment provided that ESL speakers may lack the poise to use it.|
|(Russo et al., 2017)||To explore the association between non-native accents and stigma||Theory-based study||Teaching a native speaking student using heavy foreign accent buttresses the set-to-fail syndrome.||For MNCs, it is necessary to recognize the probable stigmatizing impacts associated with accents to avoid internalization of the discrimination as an indication of personal incompetence.|
|(Tum, 2012)||To examine the causes of feelings of inadequacy and anxiety among non-native students in Cyprus||Mixed methods||Heavy accented speech was caused by stigmatizing expressions from native speakers. The latter engendered feelings of apprehension and lack of confidence, thus causing speakers to make more communication mistakes|
|(Kesen & Aydın, 2014)||To evaluate the anxiety beliefs of a cohort of Turkish EFL tutors to teaching||Survey||The levels of anxiety encountered by the instructors were dependent on their teaching experiences||There is a need for training to enhance awareness regarding the anxiety levels of apprentice professors|
|(Smith, 2004)||To explore the intuitive modulators of stereotype threats||Integrative review||An explicit expression of negative label regarding expected performance results in threatening feelings that cause anxiety and performance decrement|
|(Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003)||To explore how stereotype threat engenders poor performance of women in math||Experimental study||Expression of negative stereotypes furthers the stereotype threat narrative|
|(Forbes, Duran, Leitner, & Magerman (2015)||To test the hypothesis that stereotype threatening scenarios enable encoding of stereotype affirming response||Experimental study||Notably, contexts characterized by stereotype threatening facilitate the acquisition and recollection of negative typecasts, which in turn strengthen performance reaction in place of positive stereotype.|
|(Kaur & Raman, 2014)||To explore the perceptions of ESL speakers towards non-native accents vis-à-vis native accents||Survey||Native English accented speakers were rated as more pleasant, correct, familiar, and acceptable for international interaction compared to foreign English accents||For countries adopting English as their second language for instruction, local norms grounded on ESL requires to be integrated into school syllabus|
|(Lindemann, 2005)||To investigate the construction of social classes for foreigners by native English speakers in the U.S.||Qualitative||Although the respondents revealed that they were unfamiliar of the form of English espoused by foreigners, they believed that non-native English speakers would be incorrect, unpleasant, and unfriendly, thus demonstrating the inherent stigmatization of individuals due to their accents.|
|(Cohen & Haun, 2013)||To investigate the impacts of interactions with many accents among monolingual children||Experimental study||Children residing in multi-accent environments and those aged between 9-10 years demonstrated in-group bias|
|(Kinzler et al., 2012)||To evaluate the nature of youngsters’ language-oriented social partialities in a monolingual context.||Experimental study||In South Africa, monolingual children aged between five and eleven years favored speakers with their native accent (Xhosa) over French speakers||Frequent exposure to other languages can change in-group partialities and degrade accent-associated stigma|
|(DeJesus et al., 2017)||To test whether children aged between five and seven years in two bilingual settings can show preferences for accents and languages within their social settings||Experimental study||Children from various linguistic cultures tended to choose native accented speakers than foreign-accented individuals.|
The Influence of Stereotype Threat on Accented Speaker’s Communication Proficiencies
Non-native accented speeches are perceived as less comprehensible. Findings of existing pieces of the literature suggest that the communication skills and academic performances of second-language learners are likely to be perceived and evaluated poorly by their peers and instructors, since the use of non-native intonations adversely shapes the anticipations of listeners. For instance, Fuse, Navichkova, and Alloggio (2018) conducted an online survey to investigate the association between the precision that listeners can comprehend non-native accented speech and their discernment towards the speaker’s attributes. Additionally, the authors sought to explore the role of the listeners’ encounters with any knowledge of other languages may shape their discernments of foreign-accented speech. The study involved rating Spanish, Indian, Russian, and Chinese non-native accents by bilingual and monolingual English native speakers on conceived qualities of the non-native speaker’s personal qualities (intelligence, professionalism, and resourcefulness) and perceived intelligibility required for speech-language pathologies. The outcomes of the survey showed that while bilingual native English listeners evaluated the foreign-accented speech as more comprehensible while their native monolingual English audience rated it less intelligible.
In a similar study, Tsurutani (2012) examined the attitudes of Japanese participants to non-native accented Japanese, and their disparities with respect to their area of residency. The authors sampled two cohorts of respondents; one dwelling in a countryside area and the other in a metropolitan setting. The informants were requested to listen to an excerpt of a Japanese passage read by native English and native Japanese speakers and express their views regarding the likely speaker’s social status, employment, and personality. The outcomes showed that when a speaker has a heavier British or Australian intonation in Japanese, they received lower scores for personal qualities, like patience, competence, and intelligence, compared to individuals with no accents. These findings imply that irrespective of the admiration of and reverence for Western language in Japanese culture, Japanese respondents rate fluent native Japanese speakers more positively than non-native accented speakers when their evaluation is grounded on auditory speech.
Similar results were reported by Kinzler, Shutts, DeJesus, and Spelke (2009) who observed that social perceptions to accentedness tend to serve a role in such issues, like the undesirable beliefs and stereotypical views in the student community. As per these scholars, second-language speakers are frequently conceived as less trustworthy, poor in cleverness, and less educated compared to native speakers. Kinzler et al. (2009) also observed that the preference for one’s native accent begins in childhood, indicating that an accent is an influential outgroup signal irrespective of social connotations. Unlike other investigations, Kinzer et al. (2009) observed that children’s preference for native accents was not solely due to the perception of non-native accents as unintelligible since youngsters did not differentiate between non-native language and foreign-accented accents. Similarly, accents may serve as a strong negative cue among children in multicultural settings, like in the U.S., thus reinforcing the argument that people who speak with heavy accents are likely to be confronted with stigma. In a similar study, DeJesus, Hwang, Dautel, and Kinzler (2017) conducted a series of experiments to test whether children aged between five and seven years in two bilingual settings can show preferences for accents and languages within their social atmospheres. The outcomes revealed that youngsters from various linguistic cultures tended to choose native accented speakers than foreign-accented individuals.
Scholars attribute the preference for native accents by children to exposure to numerous varieties of languages that are presumed to influence other language-related in-group choices. For example, Kinzler, Shutts, and Spelke (2012) investigated the nature of youngsters’ language-oriented social partialities in a monolingual context. The findings revealed that, in South Africa, monolingual children aged between five and eleven years favored speakers with their native accent (Xhosa) over French speakers. Nonetheless, for those attending English-instructed schools, the trend was opposite, with the latter opting for English due to the perceived “high-status language” than Xhosa. These results imply that frequent exposure to other languages can change in-group partialities. In Brazil, Cohen and Haun (2013) explored the impacts of interactions with many accents among monolingual children. In their investigation, Cohen and Haun (2013) showed puppets that spoke in accents that matched the native one and another that differed from the child’s pronunciation. The participants were then required to select the doll they preferred. The study revealed that children residing in multi-accent environments and those aged between 9-10 years demonstrated in-group bias, suggesting that exposure to a diversity of accents could shape children’s social penchants.
Eisenchlas and Tsurutani (2011) found that foreign language students’ educational capacity is frequently underrated due to their accented speech. Notably, owing to varying anticipations from instructors, non-native learners are less likely to obtain numerous opportunities to engage in classroom discussions than native ones. As per Park, Klieve, Tsurutani, and Harte (2017), the aforementioned differences that result in lesser participation in learning practices may manifest in their final grades. In Lindeman’s (2005) qualitative study, although the respondents revealed that they were unfamiliar with the form of English espoused by foreigners, they believed that non-native English speakers would be incorrect, unpleasant and unfriendly, thus demonstrating the inherent stigmatization of individuals due to their accents.
Speaking with heavy mother-tongue accents has also been related to a lack of integrity, mainly due to the perception that foreign-accented speech is difficult to process. In Lev-Ari and Keysar’s (2010) view, most non-native intonations can cause speakers to appear less trustworthy than native speakers for various reasons. First, an accent makes speech more complex to process, second, that the pronunciation acts as a signal. As per Levi-Avri and Keysar (2010), native speakers are extremely subtle to non-native dialogue, and they are fast to employ the latter as an identifier of an out-group member. This invokes stereotypic labels about outsiders, which subsequently foster discrimination that could influence the trustworthiness of the foreign-accented speaker. Kaur and Raman (2014) examined the perceptions of ESL speakers towards non-native accents vis-à-vis native accents and noted that native English accented speakers were rated as more pleasant, correct, familiar, and acceptable for international interaction compared to foreign English accents.
In an earlier investigation, Dixon, Mahoney, and Cocks (2002) assessed the influence of regional intonation on the abrasion of guilt among n=119 informants who listened to a taped conversation between a male policeman and a native British male criminal suspect. The authors espoused the “matched-guise” approach to develop a 2(race of the criminal: Black/White) by 2 (accent type: Standard/Birmingham) by 2 (crime type: white/blue collar) independent groups framework. Notably, the suspected perpetrator was evaluated as substantially less culpable when he used a native British English than Birmingham accent, and that attributions of guiltiness were significantly correlated with the suspect’s conceived social attractiveness and superiority.
Levi-Ari and Keysar (2010) explain that when a non-native accent is used as an indication of an outgroup member, it is not the intonation per-se, but the prejudice that influences the integrity of the speaker. Contrastingly, the challenge in processing the foreign-accented speech is intrinsic in the inflection itself, and thus, natives find it difficult to believe foreigners as they find their communication harder to comprehend. The perception of non-native speech as unbelievable has also affected the view of students towards non-native instructions. For example, in an article posted on the Inside Higher Education Magazine, Mathews (2017) reported that undergraduates outside the United States distrust the credibility of teaching in English that is not instructed by native English speakers. On a similar light, Oorbreek (2017) observed that, whereas the professional exchange program between the institutions of Sultan Agung Islamic University and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences enriched the academic programs, learners experienced challenges in comprehending dialogs from ESL lecturers. As per Oorbreek (2017), heavy accented speech theoretically has an adverse effect on affective and attitudinal response among learners, since the information that is simpler to comprehend will sound familiar and more credible than conversations that are complex to process.
As outlined earlier, in the past twenty years, most countries where English is not the native language observed a significant escalation in the utilization of English as a medium of instruction in university education (EMI). For example, 918 English-based degree programs were introduced in Germany, while in the Netherlands, university students had the chance to select from more than 1,000 master and bachelor English-instructed programs in 2017. Nonetheless, Hendriks et al. (2018) noted that the increase in non-native English (NNE) tutors engaged in EMI at the university level have resulted in mounting concerns regarding the appraisal of instructors’ foreign accents. Hendriks et al. (2018) sought to explore the appraisal of German and Dutch instructors with slight and modest NNE accents with respect to their teaching quality, intelligibility, competence, and likeability by their Dutch and German students. The findings showed that slight NNE accented tutors received relatively positive scores on all the four variables compared to moderate and heavy accented NNEs. In fact, the former cohort of tutors was evaluated on the same pedestal as native English speakers. The above findings necessitate NNE speakers to enlist for pronunciation and English training classes to diminish the signals of moderate and heavy foreign accents.
Non-native accents limit interactions with native speakers. Apart from fostering the acquisition of knowledge, institutions of higher education serve as settings for socialization, and in turn, the fostered interactions facilitate learning processes especially in multicultural settings. Nonetheless, available studies have found that non-native accents limit interactions, with a study cited in Oorbreek’s (2017) paper suggesting that up to 40% of native students are likely to skip classes instructed by non-native professors. In a qualitative study involving interviews with six international apprentices in the U.S., Kamara (2004) considered accent as “handicap” instead of as an “ingredient,” citing that the negative perception towards accented speech is either instinctively or knowingly employed by a significant number of first language speakers to delegitimize the individualities and lived encounters of second language speakers, as well as to inculcate in them feelings of inadequacy in both their potential to hone their communication skills in second language and academic performance in general. One of the respondents in Kamara’s (2009) research indicated that “at times, they do not consider me as ESL, instead they judge me as a Muslim or Pakistani. In fact, some shout out aloud that your English is good for someone like you, so I avoid interacting with them” (p.31).
Non-native accented speakers renounce the prospects to improve their socio-linguistic communication skills of native speakers that frequently demands informal and colloquial practice (Hegarty, 2014). As per this author, limited interaction between foreign and native speakers in universities would cause the former to experience heightened levels of anxiety whenever they are compelled to use native language to convey a message. Huang et al. (2013) conducted two experiments to test the various reasons underlying the glass ceiling partialities affecting non-native accented individuals in their workplaces. The outcomes of the investigation supported the argument that anxiety among foreign speakers is correlated with dissatisfactory conversations, and speeches marked by deviations from standard tone patterns, mispronunciations, and conflicting facial expressions (Huang et al., 2013).
Lacina (2002) observed that accent stigma can delay second language students’ adjustment on campus. As per this author, interactions among students are necessary for establishing friendships and belonging in a supportive learning setting; nonetheless, forming social networks for non-native speakers can be difficult owing to the marked accent stereotyping. In a similar study, Aichhorn and Puck (2017) performed inductive research to explore the emotional influence of English at the personal level, and examine the feelings of non-native workers when using standardized corporate language in multinational corporations (MNCs). The authors attributed non-native language anxiety to a myriad of factors, encompassing the absence of the necessary second language mastery, and when they insufficiently compare their non-native language skills with those counterparts with augmented first language proficiencies. This implies that second language speakers continue to compare themselves with a near-native level of mastery of the language even after attaining optimal levels of competence.
Non-native accents invoke feelings of anxiety among second-language speakers.Non-native accents are allied to feelings of anxiety, which cause second language speaking students to incur a myriad of mistakes when addressing with native speakers, thereby furthering the set-to-fail syndrome and stereotype threat argument. For instance, according to Russo et al. (2017), teaching a native speaking student using heavy foreign accent buttresses the set-to-fail syndrome, whereby the lecturer is perceived to be poor, weak, and modest, who settles for the low expectations set by their leaders. This is further worsened by the aspect that, often, non-natives lack the confidence to express themselves when they know that they are under scrutiny or when they want to prove that they are equal with their native speakers.
The interviewees in Tum’s (2012) study, for instance, expressed that one the challenges they encounter when communicating using English after training as ESL teacher educators is the feeling of anxiety when addressing native English students. One of the respondents indicated that “I mix up words, grammar rules, prepositions, and subjects. I try to form sentences correctly, but because I worry about making mistakes so much, I just end up making even more. I forget everything because I get so anxious” (Tum, 2012 p.2055). These sentiments are in line with Russo et al.’s (2016) assertion that non-native use of heavy accented native dialect is likely to result in communication errors, such as improper use of grammar, wrong pronunciation, incorrect articulation of sentences, or diverting from standard intonation, rhythm, and stress patterns, which can enhance the native listeners’ perception that foreign-accented speakers are poor communicators or incompetent teachers who cannot work without supervision.
A quantitative study conducted by Kesen and Aydın (2014) to explore the anxiety beliefs among ESL instructors teaching English to EFL in Istanbul, Turkey found that levels of anxiety encountered by the tutors were dependent on their teaching experiences. Notably, novice ESL instructors were more likely to be anxious when handling EFL learners than those who have lengthy experiences. In addition, the authors observed that high anxiety negatively influenced the performance of the apprentice ESL English trainers, including causing anxiety among students, since they often avoid the provision of verbal support, are inclined to resort to employing hostile actions and remarks, and they tend to use a significant amount of lecture time organizing classroom practices.
Stroessner and Good (2015) add that, in classrooms, the initial driver of set-to-fail perception is reliant not only on major mistakes, such as non-attendance or failure to complete assignments but it is also based on mistakes associated with non-native accented speeches, such as incorrect diction, which augment stereotype threat. In a study published in the Educational Psychology Review, Smith (2004) submits that when a negative label regarding expected performance is explicitly expressed, the resulting threatening feelings cause the intended group to perform miserably. Similar findings were recorded by Keller and Dauenheimer (2003), which reported that when it was reiterated that female students in are score poor in math, the math performance of sixth-grade girls dropped in their subsequent exams not fundamentally since they approved the math-associated pigeonhole but due to the impacts of the stereotype threat.
Various explanations have been put forward to rationalize the negative stereotype tagged on women poor math mastery. For instance, the findings of two experiments in Forbes, Duran, Leitner, and Magerman (2015) study attributed the typecast concerning women being poor in math to the possibility that they encrypt error feedback better than correct response compared to their counterparts in less stereotype threatening backgrounds. In Forbes et al.’s (2015) view, situations marked by stereotype threatening events facilitate the acquisition and recollection of negative typecasts, which in turn strengthen performance reaction in place of positive stereotype. The latter disaffirm response to undermine their scores in the subsequent math test and worsening the general stereotype anxiety. Forbes et al.’s research (2015) outcomes imply that encounters of stereotype threat may persist in the mind of the discriminated individuals after the event and not essentially mirror the reality of their actions. Instead, these stereotype threatening cases establish the basis for encrypting adverse aspects about the occurrence that may endure for long.
Although Forbes et al.’s (2015) and Keller and Dauenheimer’s (2003) research have not focused on communication skills, the interpretations elucidate that non-native accents cause the second language speaking students to be apprehensive and lack confidence when interacting with native speakers. Low confidence levels limit the willingness to socialize, and subsequently, hone communication skills. On the contrary, anxiety increases proneness to communication and grammar errors, which support the concept of stereotype threat. Besides, the above results not only confer additional empirical proof that stereotype threat is an extremely prevalent problem that can demoralize academic performance and communication among students and lecturers in multicultural institutions of higher learning, but they also highlight a novel risk indicating that belittled individuals’ letdowns may be memorable.
- Conclusion and Recommendations
The purpose of the current investigation was to examine the influence of stereotype threat on the communication skills of non-native accented speakers in the institutions of higher education. The research is grounded on the stereotype threat model, which holds that the applicability of negative typecasts in testing cases decreases the throughput and performance of a person in the stereotype groups by aggravating invasive pressure. The research paper adopted an integrative review framework that led to the qualitative synthesis of findings from twenty-four articles selected through an electronic search of five databases and a hand search of reference lists of sampled studies. The review resulted in the identification of three possible mechanisms through which stereotype threat influence the communication skills of foreign-accented students in post-secondary institutions. The appraised studies suggested various ways of addressing stigma-associated stigma and the negative impacts of stereotype threats while using non-native accents. These include exposure to multiple languages to confer listeners with an enhanced perceptual benefit when evaluating fluency of non-native speech, engaging NNEs tutors who participate in EMI in pronunciation training to reduce manifestations of heavy and moderate NNE accents, and providing cross-cultural counseling, among others.
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