Does learning a language in the elderly enhance switching ability?
Fernández García, Yuriem
Antón Ustaritz, Eneko
Duñabeitia, Jon Andoni
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Sara Ramos, Yuriem Fernández García, Eneko Antón, Aina Casaponsa, Jon Andoni Duñabeitia, Does learning a language in the elderly enhance switching ability?, In Journal of Neurolinguistics, Volume 43, Part A, 2017, Pages 39-48, ISSN 0911-6044, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroling.2016.09.001.
The bilingual advantage has been subject of research repeatedly over the last decade. Many studies have supported the idea of the existence of a higher functioning in domain general cognitive abilities among bilingual samples as compared to monolingual samples. However, this idea has been recently challenged by a number of scholars, and a recent body of evidence suggests that the acquisition of a new language does not necessarily involve an enhancement of domain-general non-linguistic abilities. In the current study we aimed at exploring the relationship between language learning and switching ability in elderly monolingual participants who learned a second language during a whole academic year. A colour-shape switching task was used as a measure of switching ability and was administered twice in a pre-test/post-test design, both to the critical group of seniors attending a language-learning course on a regular basis and to a group of age-matched monolingual seniors who did not attend to any language-learning course and that served as controls. Results showed that switching costs in the post-test were not significantly different from those in the pre-test in either the experimental or the control groups, demonstrating that the acquisition of a second language in the elderly does not necessarily lead to an enhancement of switching ability as measured by switching costs. We acknowledge the need of further longitudinal L2 training studies to reach clear conclusions on the effects of language learning in domain-general executive control.