Perceptions of second language oral fluency

Supervisor: Dr Zöe Handley

A) Rationale for the project

It is generally accepted that the ability to speak at a good pace without pausing or hesitating, i.e. oral fluency, is crucial if second language learners are to hold the attention of their interlocutors, develop personal relationships and access opportunities such as employment in the target culture. A wide variety of measures of utterance fluency, the temporal properties of an utterance including pausing and speech rate, have been developed for use in research designed to provide insights into oral fluency development. The extent to which these measures reflect listener’s perceptions of oral fluency, is, however, little understood. This project will extend previous research on perceived fluency to explore the influence of clause versus discourse fluency on listener perceptions of fluency, comprehensibility and communicative adequacy. 

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

Kormos, J., & Dénes, M. (2004). Exploring measures and perceptions of fluency in the speech of second language learners. System, 32(2), 145-164.

Préfontaine, Y., Kormos, J., & Johnson, D. E. (2016). How do utterance measures predict raters’ perceptions of fluency in French as a second language?. Language Testing, 33(1), 53-73.

Rossiter, M. J. (2009). Perceptions of L2 fluency by native and non-native speakers of English. Canadian Modern Language Review, 65(3), 395-412.

Skehan, P., & Foster, P. (1999). The influence of task structure and processing conditions on narrative retellings. Language learning, 49(1), 93-120.

Skehan, P., Foster, P., & Shum, S. (2016). Ladders and snakes in second language fluency. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 54(2), 97-111.

C) Research aims / questions

This project will explore the relationship between utterance and perceived fluency with a focus on recent developments in the measurement of oral fluency.

D) Methods

You will use a combination of tasks designed to elicit spontaneous speech and self-report questionnaires to collect your data. You will analyse learners’ speech production data using PRAAT. You will analyse the questionnaire data using appropriate statistical techniques.

E) Skills and opportunities you could gain

You will develop an in depth understanding of oral fluency. You will learn how to design speech elicitation tasks and code and analyse oral production data using PRAAT. You will also learn how to analyse questionnaire data using appropriate statistical techniques.