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Better acoustics required for non-native language speakers

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An interesting article featured on Swedish radio website recently saying poor acoustics in school premises can lead to poor results. It highlights that students with non native language backgrounds do worse in school which may be partly due to poor acoustics in classrooms. Research shows that it is more difficult to perceive all sounds in a language that don’t belong to one’s mother tongue.

At Akalla F9 Elementary School in northwest of Stockholm, where only one in seven pupils have Swedish as their mother tongue, has now been fitted with sound absorbing panels which has made a difference.
– The sound absorbers give a quiet sound environment and a less reverberant room. The classrooms have been built considering the sound, says assistant principal Ingela Molin.
The sound absorbing panels are everywhere: in classrooms, in the cafeteria, in the hallways and in leisure corner.
Noisy environments with much reverberance hinder concentration. It is known that, for example, people with hearing loss are particularly sensitive to bad sound environments.
It is not so well known is that for students who have a mother tongue other than Swedish, must work harder to understand the Swedish language. These students have greater need of a good acoustic environment than those who have Swedish as their first language.
– The brain does not have the same linguistic foundations for a second language compared to the original mother tongue linguistic foundations , says Stig Arlinger, professor of audiology at Linköping University.– If it is noisy and disturbing in the classroom, particularly for the students who do not have Swedish as their mother tongue, they have to concentrate much more to understand what is being said. These students then have less energy left in their brain to store, remember and learn, he says.
Stig Arlinger thinks that worse grades can be partly explained by deficiencies in school sound environments.
– The fact that they have a greater need for a quiet environment, means they require classrooms designed to provide as quiet an environment as possible, he says.
Aalaa Tarnini, a student at the elementary school Akalla F-9, has noticed the difference when the school moved to the new building with the many sound absorbing panels.
– It is much quieter which helps me work in peace also, I can concentrate more easily. It’s great with a grouproom with doors, because it is much more pleasant to be in here. Students outside the group room cannot hear us and we cannot hear them, says Aalaa Tarnini.
For more info on this article and to listen in Swedish click here

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