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Poorer verbal working memory for a second language selectively impacts academic achievement in university medical students

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Author(s): Collette Mann | Benedict J. Canny | David H. Reser | Ramesh Rajan

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e22;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Medical education | International students | Working memory | Speech in noise | Assessment | OSCE | English as a second language

ABSTRACT
Working memory (WM) is often poorer for a second language (L2). In low noise conditions, people listening to a language other than their first language (L1) may have similar auditory perception skills for that L2 as native listeners, but do worse in high noise conditions, and this has been attributed to the poorer WM for L2. Given that WM is critical for academic success in children and young adults, these speech in noise effects have implications for academic performance where the language of instruction is L2 for a student. We used a well-established Speech-in-Noise task as a verbal WM (vWM) test, and developed a model correlating vWM and measures of English proficiency and/or usage to scholastic outcomes in a multi-faceted assessment medical education program. Significant differences in Speech-Noise Ratio (SNR50 ) values were observed between medical undergraduates who had learned English before or after five years of age, with the latter group doing worse in the ability to extract whole connected speech in the presence of background multi-talker babble (Student-t tests, p 
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