Journal of the Acoustical Society of America volume:119 (4):2445-2454.
Spoken communication in a non-native language is especially difficult in the presence of noise. This
study compared English and Spanish listeners’ perceptions of English intervocalic consonants as a
function of masker type. Three maskers (stationary noise, multitalker babble, and competing speech)
provided varying amounts of energetic and informational masking. Competing English and Spanish
speech maskers were used to examine the effect of masker language. Non-native performance fell
short of that of native listeners in quiet, but a larger performance differential was found for all
masking conditions. Both groups performed better in competing speech than in stationary noise, and
both suffered most in babble. Since babble is a less effective energetic masker than stationary noise,
these results suggest that non-native listeners are more adversely affected by both energetic and
informational masking.Astrong correlation was found between non-native performance in quiet and
degree of deterioration in noise, suggesting that non-native phonetic category learning can be
fragile. A small effect of language background was evident: English listeners performed better when
the competing speech was Spanish.