Language-dependent memory in bilingual learning

Viorica Marian*, Caitlin M. Fausey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Spanish-English bilinguals were taught academic-type information about History, Biology, Chemistry and Mythology in their two languages. Upon testing, it was found that memory was more accurate and retrieval was faster when the language of retrieval and the language of encoding matched than when they did not match. For accuracy, the pattern of results was influenced by bilinguals' language proficiency, so that only balanced bilinguals whose high proficiency levels were similar in both languages showed language-dependent recall. For reaction time, bilinguals were faster to retrieve information when the languages of retrieval and encoding matched than when they mismatched, but only for material encoded in Spanish. The influence of encoding and retrieval languages on error patterns was also examined. Together, the study's findings suggest that bilingual learning may be subject to language dependency and that experience with a language may increase the strength of linguistic cues in producing language-dependent memory. The results are consistent with previous findings of language-dependent memory in autobiographical narratives, carry applied implications for bilingual education, and are discussed within the theoretical framework of the relationship between language and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1047
Number of pages23
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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