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J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2015 Jun;58(3):722-7. doi: 10.1044/2015_JSLHR-S-14-0259.

The Effect of Intensified Language Exposure on Accommodating Talker Variability.



This study systematically examined the role of intensified exposure to a second language on accommodating talker variability.


English native listeners (n = 37) were compared with Mandarin listeners who had either lived in the United States for an extended period of time (n = 33) or had lived only in China (n = 44). Listeners responded to target words in an English word-monitoring task in which sequences of words were randomized. Half of the sequences were spoken by a single talker and the other half by multiple talkers.


Mandarin listeners living in China were slower and less accurate than both English listeners and Mandarin listeners living in the United States. Mandarin listeners living in the United States were less accurate than English natives only in the more cognitively demanding mixed-talker condition.


Mixed-talker speech affects processing in native and nonnative listeners alike, although the decrement is larger in nonnatives and further exaggerated in less proficient listeners. Language immersion improves listeners' ability to resolve talker variability, and this suggests that immersion may automatize nonnative processing, freeing cognitive resources that may play a crucial role in speech perception. These results lend support to the active control model of speech perception.

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