Adult Japanese Learners Ranking of Six English Accents
Keywords: Accents, attitudes, native speakers, Japan, eikaiwa, English conversation schools
CES English School, Japan
Christopher Wharton is the owner of CES English School. He has been teaching English in Japan for seven years, primarily in private English schools and colleges, and is currently finishing his MA in TEFL/TESL at the University of Birmingham. His research interests include L1 use in the EFL classroom and learner autonomy.
British and American English teachers originally dominated the Japanese EFL landscape. Although teachers from other Inner Circle countries, Outer Circle countries, and even some teachers from the Expanding Circle are now employed by both private and public schools across Japan, this paper investigates the attitudes held by a group of thirty adult eikaiwa students toward five of the most common native English accents found in eikaiwa, and one Japanese English accent. Students rated the speakers on familiarity, comprehensibility, personality, nationality, and fitness as an English teacher. Intelligibility was gleaned from a cloze test administered at the end of the survey. The data show that although students ranked the American speaker rather highly across all categories, the British speaker was ranked at or near the bottom. The Scottish accent was preferred among all accents surveyed, narrowly edging out the Canadian accent. The investigation also found that students; proficiency had the largest effect on intelligibility and nationality identification. In addition, familiarity and comprehensibility did not play a large role in students; attitudinal ratings, perhaps signaling openness to unfamiliar accents.