Between-language competition as a driving force in foreign language attrition

Mickan, A., McQueen, J. M., & Lemhöfer, K. (2020). Between-language competition as a driving force in foreign language attrition. Cognition, 198: 104218. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104218.
Research in the domain of memory suggests that forgetting is primarily driven by interference and competition from other, related memories. Here we ask whether similar dynamics are at play in foreign language (FL) attrition. We tested whether interference from translation equivalents in other, more recently used languages causes subsequent retrieval failure in L3. In Experiment 1, we investigated whether interference from the native language (L1) and/or from another foreign language (L2) affected L3 vocabulary retention. On day 1, Dutch native speakers learned 40 new Spanish (L3) words. On day 2, they performed a number of retrieval tasks in either Dutch (L1) or English (L2) on half of these words, and then memory for all items was tested again in L3 Spanish. Recall in Spanish was slower and less complete for words that received interference than for words that did not. In naming speed, this effect was larger for L2 compared to L1 interference. Experiment 2 replicated the interference effect and asked if the language difference can be explained by frequency of use differences between native- and non-native languages. Overall, these findings suggest that competition from more recently used languages, and especially other foreign languages, is a driving force behind FL attrition.
Additional information
Supplementary data
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page