Having access to more than one language speeds up comprehension

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Interesting study here, where it turns out that cognates between languages are read at greater speed by bilinguals than others. Apparently when bilinguals read a sentence that contains cognates in the two languages they know, the cognates take less time to process than other words, despite the reading material all being in their native tongue.

There's an example of one sentence in Dutch there - Ben heeft een oude oven/lade gevonden tussen de rommel op zolder - where bilingual students read oven faster than lade, presumably because of it being a word in both Dutch and English.

Bilinguals then reading this sentence:

Hij is vooral bekend door zijn surrealistische werk, bizarre ‘handgeschilderde droomfoto’s’, zoals hij het zelf noemde.

would presumably take less time to read parts like surrealistische werk, bizarre, etc.

One remaining issue: are bilinguals ever slowed down by false friends? Door in this sentence doesn't mean door, it means through, by, etc. (German: durch).

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