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The aim of the experiment was to determine whether language learning experience contributes to the development of enhanced speech perception abilities. Monolinguals, bilinguals and multilinguals were compared in their ability to discriminate a non-native contrast behaviorally using an AX task. The experiment was based on a "pre-test-training-post-test" design and performance was tested before and after receiving training on the voiceless aspirated dental/retroflex stop contrast. At post-test, participants were also tested on their ability to transfer training to a similar contrast (i.e., voiceless unaspirated dental/retroflex stop contrast). While no group differences were found at pre-test, analyses of the trained-on contrast at post-test revealed that multilinguals were more accurate than monolinguals and that both the multilingual and bilingual groups were more accurate than a control group that received no training. The results of the experiment not only suggest that multilinguals and bilinguals have enhanced speech perception abilities compared to monolinguals, but they also indicate that bi-/multilingualism helps develop superior learning abilities. This provides support for the idea that learning more than one language has positive effects on the cognitive development of an individual (e.g., Bialystok et al., 2004).


Marie-Claude Tremblay, Laura Sabourin. Comparing behavioral discrimination and learning abilities in monolinguals, bilinguals and multilinguals. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 2012 Nov;132(5):3465-74

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PMID: 23145626

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