Effects of noise and proficiency on intelligibility of Chinese-accented English

Catherine L. Rogers, Jonathan Dalby, Kanae Nishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This study compared the intelligibility of native and foreign-accented English speech presented in quiet and mixed with three different levels of background noise. Two native American English speakers and four native Mandarin Chinese speakers for whom English is a second language each read a list of 50 phonetically balanced sentences (Egan, 1948). The authors identified two of the Mandarin-accented English speakers as high-proficiency speakers and two as lower proficiency speakers, based on their intelligibility in quiet (about 95% and 80%, respectively). Original recordings and noise-masked versions of 48 utterances were presented to monolingual American English speakers. Listeners were asked to write down the words they heard the speakers say, and intelligibility was measured as content words correctly identified. While there was a modest difference between native and high-proficiency speech in quiet (about 7%), it was found that adding noise to the signal reduced the intelligibility of high-proficiency accented speech significantly more than it reduced the intelligibility of native speech. Differences between the two groups in the three added noise conditions ranged from about 12% to 33%. This result suggests that even high-proficiency non-native speech is less robust than native speech when it is presented to listeners under suboptimal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-154
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingualism
  • Foreign accent
  • Speech intelligibility
  • Speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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