"Japanese-tuned ears" 日本語耳 are established at 14 months old.

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Nov 14, 2010 10:31 pronunciation
Scientists reported that, as early as at 14 months old, Japanese babies start mentally inserting vowels between consecutive consonants when they hear foreign language.

Sounds in Japanese language always have one consonant and vowel in a syllable: for example, か has K and A; そ has S and O; and ぬ has N and U. Although, technically speaking, there are exceptions for this rule, native Japanese speakers often neglect them. Thus, they are not accustomed to consecutively pronounced consonants.

When the Japanese listen to words containing consecutive consonants in a foreign language, they often recognize them as sounds with additional vowels which they mentally insert after each consonants. They also tend to pronounce foreign language with additional vowels after consonants.
"McDonald" in English has just three syllables. However, the Japanese consider that it has 6 syllables, for they recognize the pronunciation of the words as MAKUDONARUDO. Thus, "McDonald" pronounced with Japanese accent never work for native English speakers.

The scientists compared the ability of sound discrimination between groups of Japanese and French babies. Babies of 8 months old from both groups could discriminate words with consecutive consonants like "abna" and "ebzo" from those with vowels after each consonants like "abuna" and "ebuzo." French babies at 14 months old still could discriminate them, whereas Japanese babies of the same age couldn't, suggesting relatively early establishment of "Japanese-tuned" ears 日本語耳 in human postnatal development.


元ネタ
http://www.riken.go.jp/r-world/info/release/press/2010/101012/detail.html
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