Perception of English phonetic contrasts by Dutch children: How bilingual are early-English learners?

Goriot, C., McQueen, J. M., Unsworth, S., & Van Hout, R. (2020). Perception of English phonetic contrasts by Dutch children: How bilingual are early-English learners? PLoS One, 15(3): e0229902. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0229902.
The aim of this study was to investigate whether early-English education benefits the perception of English phonetic contrasts that are known to be perceptually confusable for Dutch native speakers, comparing Dutch pupils who were enrolled in an early-English programme at school from the age of four with pupils in a mainstream programme with English instruction from the age of 11, and English-Dutch early bilingual children. Children were 4-5-yearolds (start of primary school), 8-9-year-olds, or 11-12-year-olds (end of primary school). Children were tested on four contrasts that varied in difficulty: /b/-/s/ (easy), /k/-/ɡ/ (intermediate), /f/-/θ/ (difficult), /ε/-/æ/ (very difficult). Bilingual children outperformed the two other groups on all contrasts except /b/-/s/. Early-English pupils did not outperform mainstream pupils on any of the contrasts. This shows that early-English education as it is currently implemented is not beneficial for pupils’ perception of non-native contrasts.
Supplementary material
Supporting information
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date
2020

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