Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 27–40 | Cite as

The consequences of language proficiency and difficulty of lexical access for translation performance and priming

  • Wendy S. Francis
  • Natasha Tokowicz
  • Judith F. Kroll


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.


Repetition priming Bilingualism Lexical processing 


Author note

This research and the writing of this article were supported by NIH Grant No. R15MH61765 to W.S.F., by NSF Grant No. BCS-0745372 to N.T., and by NIH Grant No. HD053146 and NSF Grant Nos. BCS-0955090 and OISE-0968369 to J.F.K. Preliminary results of Experiment 1 were presented at the 42nd, and preliminary results of Experiment 2 at the 41st, Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society. The combined results were presented at the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism. We thank Beatriz K. Augustini for assistance with the data collection and analysis.

Address correspondence to Wendy S. Francis, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University Ave., El Paso, TX 79968 or e-mail


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy S. Francis
    • 1
  • Natasha Tokowicz
    • 2
  • Judith F. Kroll
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Texas at El PasoEl PasoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Learning Research and Development CenterUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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