Volume 12, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
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We investigated whether the features of the second language (L2) matter when we consider the consequence of short-term L2 immersion on performance in the native language (L1). We compared L1 performance in English-speaking learners of a typologically-dissimilar L2-Chinese immersed in Chinese while living in Beijing, China and learners of a typologically-similar L2 (Spanish or French) exposed to the L2 in a classroom setting only. The groups were matched on cognitive abilities. Each group performed a battery of language tasks in English that assessed the ability to produce and recognize spoken words, as well as to name written words and pseudo-words in the native language. Immersed learners produced fewer words in their native language, made more semantic errors, and benefited more from higher lexical frequency when retrieving L1 words relative to classroom learners. Immersed learners also revealed reduced competition from dense phonological neighborhoods when listening to English words presented in noise, but no difference in English word reading and phonemic decoding performance compared to classroom learners. Results are consistent with the view that L2 immersion reduces access to the native language, but suggest that the consequences of L2 immersion on the L1 may be dependent upon the form of cross-language differences.


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