Skip to main content


  • Tracey M. Derwing (a1), Murray J. Munro (a2), Ronald I. Thomson (a3) and Marian J. Rossiter (a4)

A fundamental question in the study of second language (L2) fluency is the extent to which temporal characteristics of speakers’ first language (L1) productions predict the same characteristics in the L2. A close relationship between a speaker’s L1 and L2 temporal characteristics would suggest that fluency is governed by an underlying trait. This longitudinal investigation compared L1 and L2 English fluency at three times over 2 years in Russian- and Ukrainian- (which we will refer to here as Slavic) and Mandarin-speaking adult immigrants to Canada. Fluency ratings of narratives by trained judges indicated a relationship between the L1 and the L2 in the initial stages of L2 exposure, although this relationship was found to be stronger in the Slavic than in the Mandarin learners. Pauses per second, speech rate, and pruned syllables per second were all related to the listeners’ judgments in both languages, although vowel durations were not. Between-group differences may reflect differential exposure to spoken English and a closer relationship between Slavic languages and English than between Mandarin and English. Suggestions for pedagogical interventions and further research are also proposed.

Corresponding author
*Address correspondence to: Tracey M. Derwing, Department of Educational Psychology, 6-102 Education North, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G5, Canada; e-mail:
Hide All
Chambers, F. (1997). What do we mean by fluency? System, 25, 535544.
Collentine, J., & Freed, B. F. (2004). Learning context and its effects on second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 153171.
de Bot, K. (1992). A bilingual production model: Levelt’s ‘speaking’ model adapted. Applied Linguistics, 13, 124.
Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., & Thomson, R. I. (2008). A longitudinal study of ESL learners’ fluency and comprehensibility development. Applied Linguistics, 29, 359380.
Derwing, T. M., Rossiter, M. J., Munro, M. J., & Thomson, R. I. (2004). L2 fluency: Judgments on different tasks. Language Learning, 54, 655679.
Derwing, T. M., Thomson, R. I., & Munro, M. J. (2006). English pronunciation and fluency development in Mandarin and Slavic speakers. System, 34, 183193.
Dewaele, J.-M. (1998). Speech rate variation in two oral styles of advanced French interlanguage. In Regan, V. (Ed.), Contemporary approaches to second language acquisition in social context (pp. 113123). Dublin, Ireland: University College Academic Press.
Dewaele, J.-M. (2002). Individual differences in L2 fluency: The effect of neurobiological correlates. In Cook, V. (Ed.), Portraits of the L2 user (pp. 221249). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Díaz-Campos, M. (2004). Context of learning in the acquisition of Spanish second language phonology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 249273.
Dudley, L. (2007). Connecting L2 learners to the larger community. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63, 539561.
Ellis, N. C. (2006). Selective attention and transfer phenomena in L2 acquisition: Contingency, cue competition, salience, interference, overshadowing, blocking, and perceptual learning. Applied Linguistics, 27, 164194.
Ellis, N. C., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (2006). Language emergence: Implications for applied linguistics. Applied Linguistics, 27, 558589.
Fillmore, C. J. (1979). On fluency. In Fillmore, C. J., Kemple, D., & Wang, W. (Eds.), Individual differences in language ability and language behavior (pp. 85101). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Freed, B. F., Segalowitz, N., & Dewey, D. P. (2004). Context of learning and second language fluency in French. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 275301.
Gatbonton, E., & Segalowitz, N. (2005). Rethinking communicative language teaching: A focus on access to fluency. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61, 325353.
Guillot, M.-N. (1999). Fluency and its teaching. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Hahn, L. D. (2004). Primary stress and intelligibility: Research to motivate the teaching of suprasegmentals. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 201223.
Just, M., & Carpenter, P. (1992). A capacity theory of comprehension: Individual differences in working memory. Psychological Review, 99, 122149.
Kormos, J. (2006). Speech production and second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Lafford, B. A. (2004). The effect of the context of learning on the use of communication strategies by learners of Spanish as a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 201225.
Lennon, P. (1990). Investigating fluency in EFL: A quantitative approach. Language Learning, 40, 387413.
Levelt, W. J. M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Levelt, W. J. M., Roelofs, A., & Meyer, A. S. (1999). A theory of lexical access in speech production. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 22, 138.
MacIntyre, P. D., Clément, R., Dörnyei, Z., & Noels, K. A. (1998). Conceptualizing willingness to communicate in a L2: A situational model of L2 confidence and affiliation. Modern Language Journal, 82, 545562.
Mehnert, U. (1998). The effects of different lengths of time for planning on second language performance. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 20, 83108.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (2001). Modeling perceptions of the accentedness and comprehensibility of L2 speech: The role of speaking rate. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 451468.
Munro, M. J., Derwing, T. M., & Morton, S. L. (2006). The mutual intelligibility of L2 speech. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 111131.
Nation, I. S. P. (1989). Improving speaking fluency. System, 17, 377384.
O’Brien, I., Segalowitz, N., Freed, B. F., & Collentine, J. (2007). Phonological memory predicts second language oral fluency in adults. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 29, 557581.
Ortega, L. (1999). Planning and focus on form in L2 performance. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 109148.
Ortega, L., & Iberri-Shea, G. (2005). Longitudinal research in second language acquisition: Recent trends and future directions. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 2645.
Pienemann, M. (1998). Language processing and second language development: Processability theory. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Raupach, M. (1980). Temporal variables in first and second language speech production. In Dechert, H. W. & Raupach, M. (Eds.), Temporal variables in speech: Studies in honour of Frieda Goldman-Eisler (pp. 263270). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Riazantseva, A. (2001). Second language proficiency and pausing: A study of Russian speakers of English. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 23, 497526.
Riggenbach, H. (Ed.). (2000). Perspectives on fluency. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Riggenbach, H. (1991). Towards an understanding of fluency: A microanalysis of nonnative speaker conversations. Discourse Processes, 14, 423441.
Segalowitz, N. (2007). Access fluidity, attention control, and the acquisition of fluency in a second language. TESOL Quarterly, 41, 181186.
Segalowitz, N., & Freed, B. F. (2004). Context, contact, and cognition in oral fluency acquisition: Learning Spanish in at home and study abroad contexts. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 173199.
Segalowitz, N., Freed, B. F., Collentine, J., Lafford, B. A., Lazar, N., & Díaz-Campos, M. (2004). A comparison of Spanish second language acquisition in two different learning contexts: Study abroad and the domestic classroom. Frontiers, 10, 118.
Segalowitz, N., & Hulstijn, J. H. (2005). Automaticity and second language learning. In Kroll, J. F. & De Groot, A. M. B. (Eds.), Handbook of bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches (pp. 371378). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Segalowitz, S. J., Segalowitz, N., & Wood, A. G. (1998). Assessing the development of automaticity in second language word recognition. Applied Psycholinguistics, 19, 5367.
Skehan, P., & Foster, P. (1999). The influence of task structure and processing conditions on narrative retellings. Language Learning, 49, 93120.
Towell, R. (2002). Relative degrees of fluency: A comparative case study of advanced learners of French. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 40, 117150.
Towell, R., & Dewaele, J.-M. (2005). The role of psycholinguistic factors in the development of fluency. In Dewaele, J.-M. (Ed.), Focus on French as a foreign language (pp. 210239). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Towell, R., Hawkins, R., & Bazergui, N. (1996). The development of fluency in advanced learners of French. Applied Linguistics, 17, 84119.
Trofimovich, P., & Baker, W. (2006). Learning second language suprasegmentals: Effect of L2 experience on prosody and fluency characteristics of L2 speech. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 130.
Ullman, M. T. (2001). The neural basis of lexicon and grammar in first and second language: The declarative/procedural model. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 4, 105122.
Wood, D. (2001). In search of fluency: What is it and how can we teach it? Canadian Modern Language Review, 57, 573589.
Zhang, J. (2002). The effects of duration and sonority on contour tone distribution: A typological survey. London: Routledge.
Zielinski, B. (2008). The listener: No longer the silent partner in reduced intelligibility. System, 36, 6984.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Studies in Second Language Acquisition
  • ISSN: 0272-2631
  • EISSN: 1470-1545
  • URL: /core/journals/studies-in-second-language-acquisition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed