Lexical processing in a non-native language: Effects of language proficiency and learning strategy

Research paper by Hsuan-Chih Chen

Indexed on: 01 May '90Published on: 01 May '90Published in: Memory & Cognition


In three experiments, native Chinese speakers were asked to use their native and non-native languages to read and translate Chinese words and to name pictures. In Experiment 1, four groups of subjects with various degrees of proficiency in their second language, English, participated. In Experiments 2 and 3, subjects were first asked to learn a list of words in a new language, French, using either Chinese words or pictures as media; then they performed the reading, naming, and translation tasks. All subjects performed better in reading words than in naming pictures, when responding in Chinese. When the response was in the non-native language (English or French), high-learning subjects were equally efficient in translation and picture-naming tasks. Low-learning subjects, however, performed better in either the translation or the picture-naming task, depending on their learning strategies. These results are consistent with the idea that both proficiency in a non-native language and the strategy for acquiring the language are main determinants for the pattern of lexical processing in that language.