Readers recall native language while learning second one

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Washington, June 2 (ANI): Research suggests that Chinese-speaking adults reading English recall the sound of Chinese translations.

The study, conducted by Yan Jing Wu, PhD, and Guillaume Thierry, PhD, of Bangor University in the United Kingdom, suggests that people who learn a second language in adolescence or later recall the sounds of words from their native language.

"Bilingual individuals retrieve information from their native language even when it's not necessary, or, even more surprising, when it is counterproductive, since native language information does not help when reading or listening to second-language words," Thierry said.

The authors asked 90 volunteers - 30 native Chinese speakers, 30 native English speakers, and 30 Chinese-English bilingual adults who learned English after age 12 - to perform a reading and a listening test.

The English-speaking volunteers had to decide whether pairs of English words had similar meanings, such as "doctor" and "nurse" or "teacher" and "rabbit", without knowing that some English words had the same sounds or similar spelling when translated into Chinese.

When English words translated into Chinese had similar sounds and were presented to the bilingual volunteers, the Chinese language words were being accessed.

"One limitation of the study is that many older generation English learners from China learned English by memorizing lists of words in what seems like a brute force method of learning," said Michael Chee, MBBS, of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.

"It would be interesting to see if the same results would be obtained if persons learning English earlier were studied."

The study is published in the June 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. (ANI)

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