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Fácil or A piece of cake: Does variability in bilingual language brokering experience affect idiom comprehension?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2017

Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Psychology, Texas A&M University
Address for correspondence: Belem G. López, Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies, University of Texas at Austin, 210 W. 24th St. F9200 Austin TX 78712,


Compared to studies of the effects of formal training in translation, little is known about the psycholinguistic impact of the experience of informal translation, or language brokering. The present study examined this issue in the context of idiom comprehension. Bilingual adults differing in prior brokering experience read English idioms and judged whether target words presented in English or Spanish were related to the idiom's meaning. For brokers, relatedness judgments were not affected by whether the targets were in the same or different language as the idiom; however, non-brokers were faster for same-language than different-language idiom-target pairings. The findings suggest that language brokering experience facilitates idiom meaning comprehension even across language boundaries, with further differences related to idiom decomposability. More generally, the findings underscore the importance of considering systematic sources of variability in language practice among bilinguals, aside from differences related to proficiency, in theorizing effects associated with bilingualism.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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*The larger project on which this research is based was supported by a Texas A&M University Vision 2020 College of Liberal Arts Dissertation Enhancement Award to the first author. We thank the reviewers and Anna Cieslicka, Roberto Heredia, Irene Moyna, Phia Salter, and Juan Colomina-Almiñana for their comments as well as Sümeyra Tosun and Erika Hale for help with item analyses. We are also grateful to Erica Dittmer, Isabella Santos, and Omar García for assistance in data collection and data coding. A version of this research was presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Chicago.


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