What can you do to better comprehend speakers with heavy accents?

Humans imitate each other during social interaction. This imitative behavior streamlines social interaction and aids in learning to replicate actions. However, the effect of imitation on action comprehension is unclear. This study investigated whether vocal imitation of an unfamiliar accent improved spoken-language comprehension. Following a pretraining accent comprehension test, participants were assigned to one of six groups. The baseline group received no training, but participants in the other five groups listened to accented sentences, listened to and repeated accented sentences in their own accent, listened to and transcribed accented sentences, listened to and imitated accented sentences, or listened to and imitated accented sentences without being able to hear their own vocalizations. Posttraining measures showed that accent comprehension was most improved for participants who imitated the speaker’s accent. These results show that imitation may aid in streamlining interaction by improving spoken-language comprehension under adverse listening conditions.

Source: “Imitation Improves Language Comprehension” from Psychological Science

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