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Early Childhood Language Memory In The Speech Perception Of International Adoptees

It is as yet unclear whether the benefits of early linguistic experiences can be maintained without at least some minimal continued exposure to the language. This study compared 12 adults adopted from Korea to the US as young children (all but one prior to age one year) to 13 participants who had no prior exposure to Korean to examine whether relearning can aid in accessing early childhood language memory. All 25 participants were recruited and tested during the second week of first-semester college Korean language classes. They completed a language background questionnaire and interview, a childhood slang task and a Korean phoneme identification task. Results revealed an advantage for adoptee participants in identifying some Korean phonemes, suggesting that some components of early childhood language memory can remain intact despite many years of disuse, and that relearning a language can help in accessing such a memory.

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