Wearing face masks in different speech styles during the COVID-19 pandemic: A study of Thai L2 English learners

Patchanok Kitikanan, Alex Ho-Cheong Leung*

*Corresponding author for this work

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During the COVID‐19 epidemic, the effect of mask wearing on communication has been questioned and explored. However, the study on the impact of face mask wearing on L2 speech is still limited. The main goal of the present study was to explore the extent to which face masks affect interlocutors’ L2 speech perception. Factors that varied were face mask (no mask, transparent mask, and disposable face mask), presentation mode (audio only vs. audiovisual), and speaking style (conversational vs. clear). The relationship between these three variables on the L2 processing was also investigated. Fifty‐three Thai undergraduates who were L2 learners of English participated in an Internet‐based perceptual task. They listened to 60 English sentences and typed the sentences they heard over an online form. The results showed that the participants did well when the L2 communication was in clear speech regardless of type of face mask and presentation mode. The improvement of the L2 perception of clear speech occurred even when the speaker produced sentences with disposable face mask as opposed to conversational speech suggesting that clear speech could enhance intelligibility in communication. As expected, the perceptual score was the lowest when the speech was in audio‐only mode with conversational style and disposable face mask. These results suggest that in L2 classroom contexts, speaking clearly could lessen the negative effects of the face mask and unavailability of visual information of the speaker.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Linguistics
Early online date26 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Mar 2024

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