Study Investigates Why We Confuse One Language for Another

A new study has looked into why people tend to confuse one language for another. The researchers also assessed if there are linguistic connections between languages that are usually mistaken for one another and how non-linguistic factors play a role in this.

This study, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the analysis of data from an online game called The Great Language Game. In the game, players listen to a short audio recording and try to guess the language being spoken from a list of options.

The researchers found out that the pair of languages most likely to be mistaken for one another is Punjabi and Kannada. On the other hand, the pair of languages least likely to be confused for one another is French and Vietnamese. The researchers noted that players are least likely to confuse languages that are spoken by people who are far apart geographically. The researchers also highlighted non-linguistic factors that affected the rate of correct guesses for each language including the economic power of the country and how widespread the language is spoken.

This study was conducted by Hedvig Skirgard from the Wellsprings of Linguistics Diversity Laureate project and the Australian National University; Sean G. Roberts from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Netherlands; and Lars Yencken, and independent researcher from Australia.