University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Cross-Modal Distraction on Simultaneous Translation: Language Interference in Spanish-English Bilinguals
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Abstract

Bilingualism has been studied extensively in multiple disciplines, yet we are still unsure how exactly bilinguals think. Though the existence of a bilingual advantage is debated, this effect has been shown in tasks using selective attention. These tasks study the effects of language interference, where two types of interference are observed: interlingual (between-languages) and intralingual (within one language). This study examines language interference in Spanish-English bilinguals using an auditory-visual simultaneous translation experimental setup. Sixteen college English monolinguals and 17 college Spanish-English bilinguals were tested. Participants translated or repeated words displayed on a screen while ignoring distractor words played through headphones. Subjects were given 72 randomized words to translate while ignoring the distractor words played through either the left, right, or both ears. The monolingual group was not affected by any independent variables tested except the length of the word on screen. Bilinguals performed worse when the word and audio were in Spanish and when the word and audio were different words. No ear advantage was observed in either group. More intralingual interference was observed for bilinguals only, and no significant interference occurred for monolinguals. A slight bilingual advantage was found, but due to the high load of the task and introduction of another language, this advantage did not result in faster or better performance. Bilingual discourse would benefit greatly from further research investigating these effects in other language pairs.

KEYWORDS: bilingualism; bilingual advantage; language interference

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