The study examines whether a slower speech rate enhances listening comprehension of unfamiliar English varieties. The participants were 179 Japanese university students studying English as a foreign language in Japan. Speech samples elicited from a variety of fluent English speakers were digitally recorded. In our first experiment, we determined that a less familiar accent (Indian English) was more difficult for these students to comprehend than a more familiar North American English accent. In the second experiment, Japanese participants heard the samples first at the original speech rate and then, several weeks later, at a reduced rate. When listening to the most heavily accented speaker, participants, irrespective of their proficiency, achieved significantly higher mean comprehension scores with the slowed speech rate. However, no significant speech rate effect was observed for the less heavily accented samples. The results of the study will contribute to pedagogical developments in teaching English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).
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