(Relaxnews) – A small new study shows bilingual children prefer people who speak with a native accent, much like monolingual children.
The study was conducted by psychology professors Krista Byers-Heinlein and Diane Poulin-Dubois, who analyzed 44 Montreal-area children between the ages of 5 and 6. The children were shown two faces on a computer screen, with audio recordings accompanying each image. One recording featured a person speaking in the child’s mother tongue with a native accent, the other a foreign accent. The phrases were exactly the same otherwise. Children were asked to point to the face/recording they preferred, with most choosing faces associated with a native accent.
According to Byers-Heinlein, this study points to children’s “preference for familiarity.”
“Kids tend to prefer to interact with people who are like them, and might perceive an accent as the mark of an outsider,” the professor says.
The professors also note the study’s implication for parents. Since children aren’t self-aware enough to understand that accents are merely “superficial measurements of character,” parents need a more direct approach in helping children understand this concept.
“We show biases early on, so it might be necessary to educate all kids, regardless of their linguistic background, about what an accent is and how it doesn’t reflect anything about people other than the fact that they are not speaking their native language,” says Byers-Heinlein.