The consequences of language proficiency and difficulty of lexical access for translation performance and priming
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Repetition priming was used to assess how proficiency and the ease or difficulty of lexical access influence bilingual translation. Two experiments, conducted at different universities with different Spanish–English bilingual populations and materials, showed repetition priming in word translation for same-direction and different-direction repetitions. Experiment 1, conducted in an English-dominant environment, revealed an effect of translation direction but not of direction match, whereas Experiment 2, conducted in a more balanced bilingual environment, showed an effect of direction match but not of translation direction. A combined analysis on the items common to both studies revealed that bilingual proficiency was negatively associated with response time (RT), priming, and the degree of translation asymmetry in RTs and priming. An item analysis showed that item difficulty was positively associated with RTs, priming, and the benefit of same-direction over different-direction repetition. Thus, although both participant accuracy and item accuracy are indices of learning, they have distinct effects on translation RTs and on the learning that is captured by the repetition-priming paradigm.