In a article on The Conversation, a researcher on Forensic Speech Science from the University of York in the UK took a look at talking through a face mask.
Dr Watt explains that there are several sources of potential miscommunication when listening to speech through facewear. one of them is the muffling effect masks can have on the sound signal itself.
In earlier research, they looked at a range of different mouth coverings. In effect, they questioned if a wearing a paper surgical mask, a motorbike helmet, two types of balaclava (one with a mouth hole, the other without), a niqab, a scarf-hoodie combination, and a whole-head rubber mask would have an affect on speaking. The researchers analysed speaker’s articulation of sounds. Also, whether masks would affect the stream of air emanating from the speaker’s mouth during speech. Lastly, these experts considered the mask’s influence on how listeners perceive speech. That last question is very interesting from an IELTS Speaking test perspective: a face mask’s influence on how an examiner can perceive speech.
This research found that none of the face masks interfered very much with articulation. And, they had surprisingly small effects on speech clarity. The study showed that the listeners “could identify speech sounds more accurately simply by being able to see the video image of the talker.” Additionally, that was even true when the mouth is effectively invisible and no lip or jaw movements could be seen, as in the case of wearing a face mask mask.
So, does wearing a face mask affect your IELTS Speaking test? The research shows that masks had a surprisingly small effects on speech clarity. And, even when people wore a mask, being able to see the person you can identify speech sounds more accurately. With IELTS an examiner can see you. Even if you do a Video Call Speaking Test. You can be confident in the examiner being able to understand you while you wear a mask.