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Studying texts in a second language: the importance of test type*


Little is known about the extent to which information encoding and retrieval differ between materials studied in first and second language (L1 and L2). In this study we compared memory for short, expository texts in L1 and L2, tested with a free recall test and a true/false judgement test. Our results show that students performed at the same level on the recognition test in both languages but not on the free recall test, with much lower performance in L2 than in L1, defined here as the dominant language. The L2 recall cost suggests that students’ performance may be underestimated if they are exclusively tested with essay-type exams in L2.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Heleen Vander Beken, Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Gent, Belgium
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This study was supported by a GOA grant from the Research Council of Ghent University (LEMMA Project). We would like to thank Dr. Michael Stevens for some exploratory data analyses and Dutch and English teacher Sarah De Paepe for rating files. In addition, we are grateful to Dr. Evelyne Lagrou for her contribution in the data collection. Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to three anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
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