Speech intelligibility of English, Polish, Arabic and Mandarin under different room acoustic conditions

Laurent Galbrun, Kivanc Kitapci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
154 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the impact of room acoustic conditions on the speech intelligibility of four languages (English, Polish, Arabic and Mandarin). Listening test scores (diagnostic rhyme tests, phonemically balanced word tests and phonemically balanced sentence tests) of the four languages were compared under four room acoustic conditions defined by their speech transmission index (STI = 0.2, 0.4, 0.6 and 0.8). The results obtained indicated that there was a statistically significant difference between the word intelligibility scores of languages under all room acoustic conditions, apart from the STI = 0.8 condition. English was the most intelligible language under all conditions, and differences with other languages were larger when conditions were poor (maximum difference of 29% at STI = 0.2, 33% at STI = 0.4 and 14% at STI = 0.6). Results also showed that Arabic and Polish were particularly sensitive to background noise, and that Mandarin was significantly more intelligible than those languages at STI = 0.4. Consonant-to-vowel ratios and languages’ distinctive features and acoustical properties explained some of the scores obtained. Sentence intelligibility scores confirmed variations between languages, but these variations were statistically significant only at the STI = 0.4 condition (sentence tests being less sensitive to very good and very poor room acoustic conditions). Overall, the results indicate that large variations between the speech intelligibility of different languages can occur, especially for spaces that are expected to be challenging in terms of room acoustic conditions. Recommendations solely based on room acoustic parameters (e.g. STI) might then prove to be insufficient for designing a multilingual environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-91
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Acoustics
Early online date22 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016


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