Classroom noise and children learning through a second language: Double jeopardy?

Peggy Nelson, Kathryn Kohnert, Sabina Sabur, Daniel Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Purpose: Two studies were conducted to investigate the effects of classroom noise on attention and speech perception in native Spanish-speaking second graders learning English as their second language (L2) as compared to English-only-speaking (EO) peers. Method: Study 1 measured children's on-task behavior during instructional activities with and without soundfield amplification. Study 2 measured the effects of noise (+10 dB signal-to-noise ratio) using an experimental English word recognition task. Results: Findings from Study 1 revealed no significant condition (pre/postamplification) or group differences in observations in on-task performance. Main findings from Study 2 were that word recognition performance declined significantly for both L2 and EO groups in the noise condition; however, the impact was disproportionately greater for the L2 group. Clinical Implications: Children learning in their L2 appear to be at a distinct disadvantage when listening in rooms with typical noise and reverberation. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists should collaborate to inform teachers, help reduce classroom noise, increase signal levels, and improve access to spoken language for L2 learners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages11
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Bilingual learners
  • Noise
  • Speech perception

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