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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 November 2020

Kazuya Saito*
University CollegeLondon
Hui Sun
University of Birmingham
Magdalena Kachlicka
University CollegeLondon
John Robert Carvajal Alayo
Birkbeck, University of London
Tatsuya Nakata
Rikkyo University
Adam Tierney
Birkbeck, University of London
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kazuya Saito, University College London, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way WC1H 0AL, United Kingdom. E-mail:


In this study, we propose a hypothesis that domain-general auditory processing, a perceptual anchor of L1 acquisition, can serve as the foundation of successful post-pubertal L2 learning. This hypothesis was tested with 139 post-pubertal L2 immersion learners by linking individual differences in auditory discrimination across multiple acoustic dimensions to the segmental, prosodic, lexical, and morphosyntactic dimensions of L2 proficiency. Overall, auditory processing was a primary determinant of a range of participants’ proficiency scores, even after biographical factors (experience, age) were controlled for. The link between audition and proficiency was especially clear for L2 learners who had passed beyond the initial phase of immersion (length of residence > 1 year). The findings suggest that greater auditory processing skill benefits post-pubertal L2 learners immersed in naturalistic settings for a sufficient period of time by allowing them to better utilize received input, which results in greater language gains and leads to more advanced L2 proficiency in the long run (similar to L1 acquisition).

Research Article
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© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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The experiment in this article earned an Open Data badge for transparent practices. The materials are available at:

This project was funded by the Kansai University Fund for Supporting Young Scholars 2018, “What vocabulary factors are crucial for the assessment and development of successful second language speech?” (awarded to the first, fifth, and sixth authors) and the Leverhulme Trust Research Grant, “Does having a good ear promote successful second language speech learning?” (awarded to the first and sixth authors). We would like to thank Yui Suzukida, Shungo Suzuki, and anonymous SSLA reviewers for their insightful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript, and Editors Susan Gass and Luke Plonsky for their support throughout the review/revision process.


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