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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Academic Paper


Title: Individual differences in control of language interference in late bilinguals are mainly related to general executive abilities
Author: Julia Festman
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Universität Potsdam
Author: Antoni Rodriguez-Fornells
Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science
Subject Language: German
Russian
Abstract: Recent research based on comparisons between bilinguals and monolinguals postulates that bilingualism enhances cognitive control functions, because the parallel activation of languages necessitates control of interference. In a novel approach we investigated two groups of bilinguals, distinguished by their susceptibility to cross-language interference, asking whether bilinguals with strong language control abilities ("non-switchers") have an advantage in executive functions (inhibition of irrelevant information, problem solving, planning efficiency, generative fluency and self-monitoring) compared to those bilinguals showing weaker language control abilities ("switchers").

29 late bilinguals (21 women) were evaluated using various cognitive control neuropsychological tests [e.g., Tower of Hanoi, Ruff Figural Fluency Task, Divided Attention, Go/noGo] tapping executive functions as well as four subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. The analysis involved t-tests (two independent samples). Non-switchers (n=16) were distinguished from switchers (n=13) by their performance observed in a bilingual picture-naming task.

The non-switcher group demonstrated a better performance on the Tower of Hanoi and Ruff Figural Fluency task, faster reaction time in a Go/noGo and Divided Attention task, and produced significantly fewer errors in the Tower of Hanoi, Go/noGo, and Divided Attention tasks when compared to the switchers. Non-switchers performed significantly better on two verbal subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (Information and Similarity), but not on the Performance subtests (Picture Completion, Block Design).

The present results suggest that bilinguals with stronger language control have indeed a cognitive advantage in the administered tests involving executive functions, in particular inhibition, self-monitoring, problem solving, and generative fluency, and in two of the intelligence tests. What remains unclear is the direction of the relationship between executive functions and language control abilities.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Behavioral and Brain Functions 2010, 6:5


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