Authors: Lidia Suárez and Shakthi B. Sathiasilan
Previous studies have shown that bilinguals who use at least one logographic language (e.g., English-Chinese) outperform bilinguals who use two alphabetic languages (e.g., English-French) in visuo-spatial memory tasks and logographic learning. In the current study, we investigated whether the memory enhancement was due to the use of logographic language or the ability to use two different writing systems. We invited biscriptal English-Chinese (alphabetic-logographic), biscriptal English-Tamil (alphabetic-alphasyllabic), and monoscriptal English-Malay bilinguals (alphabetic-alphabetic) to perform several memory and language learning tasks. The findings suggest that the demanding cognitive processes involved in writing and reading Chinese promote visuo-spatial memory enhancement, and this facilitates the learning of new logographic forms. We conclude that the memory advantage of English-Chinese bilinguals was probably due to the use of Chinese rather than the ability to use two different writing systems.
Keywords: bilingualism; visual memory; spatial memory; auditory memory; foreign language acquisition; logographic language; alphabetic language; alphasyllabic language