Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


Date of this Version



Z. E. Peng and L. M. Wang (2016) "Effects of noise, reverberation and foreign accent on native and non-native listeners' performance of English speech comprehension." J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 139, 2772-2783.


Copyright 2016 Acoustical Society of America. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the Acoustical Society of America.

The following article appeared in J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 139, 2772-2783, and may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4948564 .


A large number of non-native English speakers may be found in American classrooms, both as listeners and talkers. Little is known about how this population comprehends speech in realistic adverse acoustical conditions. A study was conducted to investigate the effects of background noise level (BNL), reverberation time (RT), and talker foreign accent on native and non-native listeners' speech comprehension, while controlling for English language abilities. A total of 115 adult listeners completed comprehension tasks under 15 acoustic conditions: three BNLs (RC-30, RC-40, and RC-50) and five RTs (from 0.4 to 1.2 s). Fifty-six listeners were tested with speech from native English-speaking talkers and 59 with native Mandarin-Chinese-speaking talkers. Results show that, while higher BNLs were generally more detrimental to listeners with lower English proficiency, all listeners experienced significant comprehension deficits above RC-40 with native English talkers. This limit was lower (i.e., above RC-30), however, with Chinese talkers. For reverberation, non-native listeners as a group performed best with RT up to 0.6 s, while native listeners performed equally well up to 1.2 s. A matched foreign accent benefit has also been identified, where the negative impact of higher reverberation does not exist for non-native listeners who share the talker's native language.