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Bilinguals better at recognising voices

Lucélia Ribeiro Sandy

Claudia Civinini writes

Bilingualism is known to give children many advantages, but a new one has been added to the list.

A new piece of research has revealed that bilingual children are better than their monolingual counterparts at recognising voices.

Bilingualism seems to give children an advantage in the social aspect of speech perception, which doesn’t focus on linguistic content but instead processes information about who is talking.

In an experiment involving 22 monolingual English speakers and 19 bilinguals, US researcher Susannah Levi found that bilingual children were better at recognising and discriminating voices, even in an unfamiliar language.

The children completed two tasks in which they heard different voices and then had to decide which voice spoke a series of words. Tasks were completed in English (spoken with a German accent) and in German, which was unfamiliar to all participants.

Bilingual participants were better at discriminating voices in both English and German, and were also faster at learning to identify voices in English.

While more research is needed to understand the underlying reason for these differences, Dr Levi said the study ‘provides yet another example of the benefits of speaking and understanding multiple languages’


Pic courtesy: Lucélia Ribeiro Sandy