Margarita Kaushanskaya, PhD – Slide of the Week

Margarita Kaushanskaya, PhD - Slide of the Week

Title: Comprehension of Accented Speech by Monolingual and Bilingual Children

Legend: Performance on a sentence-comprehension task by monolingual English speaking children, simultaneous Spanish-English bilingual children (who acquired English and Spanish at birth), and early English-Spanish bilingual children (who acquired Spanish after English). Sentences were either presented in native English, or in Spanish-accented English. All three groups of children showed better comprehension of sentences presented in native English than in Spanish-accented English, suggesting that children’s language background does not influence comprehension of accented speech.

Citation: McDonald, M., Gross, M., Buac, M., Bakto, M., & Kaushanskaya, M. (2017). Processing and comprehension of accented speech by monolingual and bilingual children. Language Learning and Development. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1080/15475441.2017.1404467

Abstract: This study tested the effect of Spanish-accented speech on sentence comprehension in children with different degrees of Spanish experience. The hypothesis was that earlier acquisition of Spanish would be associated with enhanced comprehension of Spanish-accented speech. Three groups of 5–6-year-old children were tested: monolingual English-speaking children, simultaneous Spanish-English bilingual children, and early English-Spanish bilingual children. The children completed a semantic judgment task in English on semantically meaningful and nonsensical sentences produced by a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker characterized by a strong Spanish accent. All children were slower to respond to foreign accented speech, independent of language background. Monolingual and early bilingual children showed reduced comprehension accuracy of accented speech, but only for nonsensical sentences. Simultaneous bilingual children performed similarly to other groups for meaningful contexts, but were not as strongly affected by accent for nonsensical contexts. Together, the findings suggest that children’s language background has only a minor influence on processing of accented speech.

About the Lab: Margarita Kaushanskaya is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Research in her Language Acquisition and Bilingualism Lab examines language and cognitive development in bilingual children with and without developmental disabilities.

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