Self-assessment of individual differences in language switching.

Research paper by Antoni A Rodriguez-Fornells, Ulrike M UM Krämer, Urbano U Lorenzo-Seva, Julia J Festman, Thomas F TF Münte

Indexed on: 01 Feb '12Published on: 01 Feb '12Published in: Frontiers in psychology


Language switching is omnipresent in bilingual individuals. In fact, the ability to switch languages (code switching) is a very fast, efficient, and flexible process that seems to be a fundamental aspect of bilingual language processing. In this study, we aimed to characterize psychometrically self-perceived individual differences in language switching and to create a reliable measure of this behavioral pattern by introducing a bilingual switching questionnaire. As a working hypothesis based on the previous literature about code switching, we decomposed language switching into four constructs: (i) L1 switching tendencies (the tendency to switch to L1; L1-switch); (ii) L2 switching tendencies (L2-switch); (iii) contextual switch, which indexes the frequency of switches usually triggered by a particular situation, topic, or environment; and (iv) unintended switch, which measures the lack of intention and awareness of the language switches. A total of 582 Spanish-Catalan bilingual university students were studied. Twelve items were selected (three for each construct). The correlation matrix was factor-analyzed using minimum rank factor analysis followed by oblique direct oblimin rotation. The overall proportion of common variance explained by the four extracted factors was 0.86. Finally, to assess the external validity of the individual differences scored with the new questionnaire, we evaluated the correlations between these measures and several psychometric (language proficiency) and behavioral measures related to cognitive and attentional control. The present study highlights the importance of evaluating individual differences in language switching using self-assessment instruments when studying the interface between cognitive control and bilingualism.