Individual differences in second-language proficiency: Does musical ability matter?


This study examined the relation between musical ability and second-language (L2) proficiency in adult learners. L2 ability was assessed in four domains: receptive phonology, productive phonology, syntax, and lexical knowledge. Also assessed were various other factors that might explain individual differences in L2 ability, including age of L2 immersion, patterns of language use and exposure, and phonological short-term memory. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine if musical ability explained any unique variance in each domain of L2 ability after controlling for other relevant factors. Musical ability predicted L2 phonological ability (both receptive and productive) even when controlling for other factors, but did not explain unique variance in L2 syntax or lexical knowledge. These results suggest that musical skills may facilitate the acquisition of L2 sound structure and add to a growing body of evidence linking language and music.

Psychological Science, 17(8), 675-681.
L. Robert Slevc
Principal Investigator