Alex Mepham1, Yifei Bi2, Sven Mattys1
1Department of Psychology, University of York, York, UK
2College of Foreign Languages, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai, China
Speech-in-speech masking research has identified what is known as release from linguistic masking, i.e., better speech transcription performance against maskers in unknown than known languages. To test whether native (British) and non-native (Mandarin) speakers of English can learn to control the interference of a known language masker, we tracked their ability to transcribe English/Mandarin sentences against English or Mandarin competing talkers over the course of 50 trials. Both native and non-native listeners improved over time. Native listeners exhibited release from linguistic masking, with less masking in Mandarin than English masker conditions. The size of this effect increased over time. In contrast, non-native listeners showed no difference between the two language maskers, and this pattern was constant over time. Masker-to-target intrusion errors decreased over time for native listeners, whereas they were virtually absent for the non-native listeners. These results show that (1) Linguistic masking is worst when the masker language is known to the listener, whether that language is native or non-native, (2) Listeners show worse performance when the masker is the same language as the target speech, and (3) Native listeners become better at suppressing masker interference over time than non-native listeners, which we hypothesize results from reduced spare cognitive capacity in non-native listeners.