The assessment of foreign accent and its communicative effects by naïve native judges vs. experienced non-native judges

International Journal of Applied Linguistics

The capacity of non-native evaluators to perform foreign accent (FA) judgments has been questioned. This study explores differences between linguistically trained non-native judges (NNJs) who are teachers of English familiar with the students’ L1s and naïve native judges (NJs) who do not speak the students’ L1s. Both groups were compared in their global evaluation of FA and its potential communicative effects (comprehensibility and irritation) in two groups of language learners (more and less experienced). Results show striking similarities between the two groups of judges. NNJs were as able as NJs to assess FA despite finding it more comprehensible than the NJs did. It is suggested that NNJs’ linguistic training promotes a more analytic approach to FA evaluation, which can compensate for the lack of native intuitions.