The recognition of southern hemisphere Englishes by Polish students of English: A native-nonnative continuum approach

Ewa Waniek-Klimczak (University of Łódź) and Jarosław Weckwerth (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

This paper investigates the recognition of less frequently heard accents of English by Polish advanced students of English. The approach adopted for the study builds on a recent discussion of the pronunciation models for foreign learners of English (see e.g. articles in Dziubalska-Kołaczyk and Przedlacka, 2005) and the proposal for recognition of non-native accents of English as legitimate dialects for international communication (e.g. Jenkins 2000, 2002). While the majority of accent studies in the model discussion focus on British and American English varieties in possible contrast to the Lingua France Core, the problem of native – non-native speech continuum seems to be neglected. The discussion on accent acceptability in English as a Foreign or International language assumes a clear-cut division between native and non-native speech not only in production, but also recognition of accents by foreign English speakers.

This paper adopts a less categorical perspective and attempts to investigate the recognition and attitude of the students to southern hemisphere Englishes spoken by first and second language speakers. It is claimed that the focus on Standard British (English) English and General American model accents in EFL education leads to problems with the recognition and understanding of other accents. Moreover, it is assumed that the clear-cut division into native vs. non-native accents is based on the degree of similarity between the presented accent and one of the major reference ones rather than specific salient features of native language usage. Consequently, the use and understanding of the term ‘native accent’ may need to be revised in EFL / EIL teaching.

The paper reports on a pilot study conducted among two groups of Polish students of English. All participants have chosen English as their major, but they differ in language experience and the degree of exposure to English in a natural setting. The following aspects of presented accents are checked: recognition as native or non-native, the geographical location, and the attitude both in terms of a holistic impression and acceptability. The students are also asked to specify salient features of an accent and motivate their decisions.

Given the limited scope of the study, the results are hoped to lead towards further, better specified questions. Most generally, the paper aims to contribute to the discussion of the native – non-native speech continuum and the recognition of less frequently heard accents both at the theoretical and practical level.


Jenkins, J. 2000. The phonology of English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, J. 2002. “A sociolinguistically based, empirically researched syllabus for English as an International Language”, Applied Linguistics 23, 1: 83-103.

Dziubalska-Kołaczyk, K. and J. Przedlacka (eds.). 2005. English pronunciation models: A changing scene. Bern: Lang.