L2 proficiency predicts inhibitory ability in L1-dominant speakers

Nga Yan Hui, Mingyu Yuan, Manson Cheuk-Man Fong, William Shi yuan Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and Objectives: Bilinguals reportedly perform better in tasks that require the suppression of interference because of the constant practice in linguistic inhibition. However, previous literature was largely based on comparisons of pure monolinguals and balanced bilinguals. Those in between the two extremes were rarely examined. This project aimed at studying whether the population who primarily speak in a first language with a different level of second language proficiency also enjoy bilingual advantage. Methodology: Twelve monolingual and 38 bilingual Hong Kong older adults were recruited to perform the Stroop task and the second language (English) proficiency tests. The subjects were all frequent first language (Cantonese) speakers with various levels of second language proficiency. Data and Analysis: Pearson correlation and multiple regression analyses were used to identify the relationship between inhibition ability (Stroop score) and demographic and language background variables (including proficiency in and frequency of exposure to their second language). Findings: Both correlation and multiple regression analysis showed that the subjects with higher proficiency in a second language performed significantly better in the Stroop task. The results suggested that higher second language proficiency leads to higher difficulty in suppressing it, thus the training of inhibition is more effective. Originality: This study expanded the literature on bilingual advantage from a dichotomous comparison between monolingual and bilingual to the more continuous spectrum of bilinguals with different levels of second language proficiency. This study aimed at showing a fuller picture of bilingualism in the world. Significance/Implications: This study proposed that with high proficiency in a second language, frequent first language speakers could also enjoy cognitive advantages brought by bilingualism. Our study provides further evidence for the bilingual advantage hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)984-998
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • aging
  • bilingual advantage
  • Bilingualism
  • cognitive decline
  • inhibition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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