Perception of English phonetic contrasts by Dutch children: How bilingual are early-English learners?
Goriot, C., McQueen, J. M., Unsworth, S., & Van Hout, R.
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.