Factors Influencing Non-Native Perception and Learning

Melissa Baese-Berk, University of Oregon

Learning a second language is a complex task, requiring acquisition of syntactic structure, lexical items, and phonological structure, among other things. In particular, learning to perceive novel phonological categories is notoriously difficult for non-native speakers, because sensitivity to non-native contrasts by adult listeners is typically quite poor. Previous research has hypothesized that a relationship between the structure of the first and second languages predicts naive perception and eventual acquisition of contrasts in a second language (e.g., Flege, 1988, Iverson, et al. 2003, Best et al. 2009). My research examines a number of other factors that may influence perception and learning of non-native contrasts. I will present a series of studies addressing the relationship between perception and production during learning, the role of variability during training, and the role of active and passive exposures during training. I will discuss the implications of the results of these studies for our understanding of second language acquisition and of cognitive processing more broadly.