UBC Undergraduate Research

Multilingual Speech Processing in Simulated Online Learning Conditions Freiwirth, Galia


The COVID-19 pandemic required that students and instructors make a shift in their routines, from attending lectures in person to attending online. A vast number of studies show that when listening to speech in quiet conditions, bilinguals are just as successful at perceiving the speech signal as monolinguals, but when listening to speech in noise, the perceptual abilities of bilinguals decrease considerably. Additionally, research on vocabulary size indicates that a larger vocabulary size can be beneficial when listening to speech in adverse conditions. Nonetheless, only few studies have analyzed the abilities of listeners with knowledge of more than two languages on speech perception tasks, and to our knowledge, the relationship between vocabulary size and speech-perception-in-noise (SPIN) tasks has yet to be studied. This study aimed to address the gap by assessing the performance of multilinguals in adverse listening conditions, quantifying multilingualism with a language entropy measure while also considering English vocabulary size. Students at the University of British Columbia were recruited to participate in a SPIN task, auditory vocabulary assessment, and multilingualism questionnaire. Speech processing challenges were present for all participants in the adverse conditions, but even more so for participants with lower vocabulary assessment scores. There was no effect of entropy on SPIN performance. The results replicate previous SPIN task findings, extend the findings to multilinguals, and suggest that there may be an added layer of difficulty for individuals with smaller vocabulary sizes in online environments.

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Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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