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Learning to think in a second language: effects of proficiency and length of exposure in English learners of German

Athanasopoulos, P., Damjanovic, L., Burnand, J. and Bylund, E. (2015) Learning to think in a second language: effects of proficiency and length of exposure in English learners of German. Modern Language Journal, 99 (S1). pp. 138-153. ISSN 1540-4781

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2015.12183.x

Abstract/Summary

The aim of the current study is to investigate motion event cognition in second language learners in a higher education learning context. Based on recent findings showing that speakers of grammatical aspect languages like English attend less to the endpoint (goal) of events than speakers of non-aspect languages like Swedish in a nonverbal categorization task involving working memory (Athanasopoulos & Bylund, 2013; Bylund & Athanasopoulos, this issue), the current study asks whether native speakers of an aspect language start paying more attention to event endpoints when learning a non-aspect language. Native English and German (a non-aspect language) speakers, and English learners of L2 German, who were pursuing studies in German language and literature at an English university, were asked to match a target scene with intermediate degree of endpoint orientation with two alternate scenes with low and high degree of endpoint orientation, respectively. Results showed that, when compared to the native English speakers, the learners of German were more prone to base their similarity judgements on endpoint saliency, rather than ongoingness, primarily as a function of increasing L2 proficiency and year of university study. Further analyses revealed a non-linear relationship between length of L2 exposure and categorization patterns, subserved by a progressive strengthening of the relationship between L2 proficiency and categorization as length of exposure increased. These findings present evidence that cognitive restructuring may occur through increasing experience with an L2, but also suggest that this relationship may be complex, and unfold over a long period of time.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Clinical Language Sciences
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
ID Code:36669
Publisher:Wiley

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