Optimizing auditory input for foreign language learners through a verbotonal-based dichotic listening approach

Xirui Cai, Andrew Lian, Nattaya Puakpong, Yaoping Shi, Haoqiang Chen, Yizhen Zeng, Jibing Ou, Wei Zheng, Yin Mo

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The quality of the physical language signals to which learners are exposed and which result in neurobiological activity leading to perception constitutes a variable that is rarely, if ever, considered in the context of language learning. It deserves some attention. The current study identifies an optimal audio language input signal for Chinese EFL/ESL learners generated by modifying the physical features of language-bearing audio signals. This is achieved by applying the principles of verbotonalism in a dichotic listening context. Low-pass filtered (320 Hz cut-off) and unfiltered speech signals were dichotically and diotically directed to each hemisphere of the brain through the contralateral ear. Temporal and spatial neural signatures for the processing of the signals were detected in a combined event-related potential (ERP) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment. Results showed that the filtered stimuli in the left ear and unfiltered in the right ear (FL-R) configuration provided optimal auditory language input by actively exploiting left-hemispheric dominance for language processing and right-hemispheric dominance for melodic processing, i.e., each hemisphere was fed the signals that it should be best equipped to process—and it actually did so effectively. In addition, the filtered stimuli in the right ear and unfiltered in the left ear (L-FR) configuration was identified as entirely non-optimal for language learners. Other outcomes included significant load reduction through exposure to both-ear-filtered FL-FR signals as well as the confirmation that non-language signals were recognized by the brain as irrelevant to language and did not trigger any language processing. These various outcomes will necessarily entail further research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalAsian-Pacific Journal of Second and Foreign Language Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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