Having been raised with two languages herself, Mónica Wagner is interested in how people use and learn multiple languages, especially when it comes to the sounds of languages. During her licence in psychology (National University of Córdoba, Argentina) she looked into whether people who speak two (or more) languages, when wanting to say the word for ‘dog,’ consider the name in both of their languages. Then, during her Master’s in cognitive neuroscience (Radboud University, The Netherlands), she looked at the other side of the coin: whether bilinguals can selectively listen in one of their languages (sometimes even the wrong one!) and the role of the context they’re in at the moment or whether or not the speaker has a foreign accent. Currently Mónica is working on her PhD at the Donders Centre for Cognition (The Netherlands), where she’s studying individual differences in foreign accent, that is, why some people struggle so much to get rid of their foreign accent in a second language, while others seem to be able to acquire a nativelike accent almost effortlessly. She is new to the Donders Wonders team but will likely blog a lot about her favorite topics: languages, bilinguals, and accents!
Scientists have long assumed that the sounds humans can make are limited by our biology. New evidence shows, however, that it may be thanks to a change in our prehistoric ancestors’ diet that most languages today have ‘f’ and ‘v’ sounds.