Dept. of Modern Languages
General Linguistics
P.O. Box 24
Unioninkatu 40
00014 University of Helsinki

Tel. +358 (050) 415 0238
Fax +358 (09) 191 28313

Cicero learning network

ProoF - Pronunciation of Finnish by immigrants in Finland

A longitudinal phonetic study on the acquisition of Finnish as a second language

Finland welcomes more and more immigrants each year. Many of them have difficulties getting a job or building a social network, which often results from their poor Finnish skills. An immigrant may speak intelligible Finnish but he or she may have a foreign accent, which can be distracting for native listeners. However, very little is known of the phonetics of foreign-accented Finnish. Surprisingly, even the current teaching and learning materials for Finnish do not deal with basic phonetics and pronunciation issues.

Many factors probably contribute to the acquisition of second language (L2) pronunciation for adults. For instance, the properties of a learner's native language (L1) affect L2 pronunciation to some extent, but it is not known exactly how or at which stages of acquisition such effects take place. Moreover, the phonetic development of second language pronunciation for adult speakers has not been thoroughly studied for any language.

In order to investigate these processes, we aim to collect a corpus of foreign-accented Finnish speech from 30 adult immigrants representing at least 10 different native languages and several different language families. In addition, we will perform follow-up recordings of the Finnish pronunciation for individual speakers of Russian, Chinese, Thai and Vietnam in the course of three years.

For Finnish spoken by immigrants, we will reveal the phonetic properties that are typical for the different native languages. Both segmental and prosodic features will be studied. As the phonetic properties and stylistic variants of everyday spoken Finnish are not well understood, we intend to investigate the colloquial speech of native Finns in detail and publish a comprehensive description of it, the first of its kind.

A survey will be conducted in order to tease out those deviations in L2 Finnish pronunciation that are inacceptable or unintelligible by native Finns. This information will be relevant when developing new methods and practices for teaching L2 Finnish.