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Psycho-Social Constraints on Naturalistic Adult Second Language Acquisition

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ghada Khattab



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The following study investigated a rare case of adult immersion in a second language context without prior exposure to the language. It aimed to investigate whether Length of Residence (LoR) acts as a strong index of L2 speech performance when coupled with daily exposure and interaction with first language speakers. Twenty-two females from Africa and Asia who worked as Foreign Domestic Helpers (FDH) in Omani homes and with varying LoRs performed an AX discrimination and a production task which tapped into Omani consonants and clusters that are absent from their L1s; their accent was also rated by L1 Omani listeners. Results showed a surprising lack of significance of LoR on all the production and perception measures examined. Discrimination results showed a low sensitivity to Arabic consonantal contrasts that are lacking in the L1 across all participants, and a small positive effect of L1 literacy. Production results exhibited low accuracy on all Arabic consonants and a marked foreign accent as judged by L1 listeners, with a small positive effect of L2 literacy. We argue that the nature of the interactions between FDH and employers, along with uneven power relations and social distance, counteract any advantage of LoR and the immersion setting examined here.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Al-Kendi A, Khattab G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Languages

Year: 2021

Volume: 6

Issue: 3

Pages: 129-150

Online publication date: 28/07/2021

Acceptance date: 22/07/2021

Date deposited: 29/07/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2226-471X

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/languages6030129


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