The Cognitive Effect of Late Non-Proficient Bilingualism
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In light of previous research showing cognitive differences between early proficient bilinguals and monolinguals, this study aimed to assess the cognitive effects of late non-proficient bilingualism at different levels of second language (L2) proficiency. This was done by comparing English native learners of Spanish and Italian with either one or four years of study in their L2 to their monolingual peers. Specifically, 115 university students were tested using a 2x2 between-subjects design to assess how language group (English native L2 learners versus English monolinguals) and year of study (first year students versus fourth year students) affected participants’ performance on measures of comprehensive proficiency, verbal fluency, and executive control. Results indicate that like early proficient bilinguals, when compared to their monolingual peers late non-proficient bilinguals demonstrate significant disadvantages on tasks assessing comprehensive proficiency and verbal fluency, but significant advantages on tasks assessing executive control. Moreover, these effects were predominantly observed between fourth year L2 learners and their monolingual peers, indicating that late non-proficient bilingualism only affects cognitive performance beyond a minimal level of L2 proficiency. The implications of these findings for the lives and mental health of late non-proficient bilinguals are discussed, and suggestions for future studies in this field of research are provided.