In this particular study, researchers from Ghent University, the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University Pompeu Fabra and ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) in Barcelona, Spain have examined whether a foreign accent affects communication and the behaviour a native speaker adopts when having a conversation with a speaker that has a foreign accent. They set up an experiment using a referential communication game in which participants received instructions either from a native speaker or a foreign-accented speaker.

It turned out that native speakers do not change their behaviour when communicating with someone with a foreign accent. These results replicate findings from previous studies. Native speakers didn’t adopt a more ‘helpful’ way of communicating (compared to communicating with a native speaker) but they also didn’t change their communication ‘for the worse’ (perhaps informed by a negative bias toward speakers with a foreign accent). As the researchers conclude in this article: “Results show that native speakers do not change their behaviour when communicating with a foreign-accented speaker, hence, suggesting that perspective taking is not affected by the native-ness of one’s conversational partner’s accent.

 

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Foucart, A. & Costa, A.. Taking a foreign perspective. Does a foreign accent affect communication?