What is it about?

This paper explains how young bilingual Catalan/Spanish learners took the MLAT-E (a language aptitude test for young learners) either in Catalan or Spanish. The results show that their performance was not affected by their L1 of preference (either Catalan, Spanish or either of the two). Instead, it was affected by their age, and therefore, their cognitive development stage, instead, as well as the type of formal education they had received when taking the test. This article also shows that these bilingual participants outperformed the mainly monolingual pool that took the MLAT-E in the norming study. This means that bilinguals might benefit from their bilingual status when it comes to aptitude (and subsequent foreign language learning).

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Why is it important?

This paper shows that one of the main criticisms that traditional language aptitude tests have received, that is, that they are language dependent, is not so relevant, at least not for this young population. Instead, it is formal education and age what might affect their performance. It also confirms that bilinguals are at an advantage as compared to monolinguals regarding language aptitude. However, we cannot tell whether it is aptitude that benefits from bilingualism or vice versa.


While nowadays the trends regarding the study of aptitude are tackling topics such as implicit and explicit aptitude using tests that, in principle, are not language dependent, traditional aptitude tests keep on being reliable, valid, and robust. Indeed, tests like the LLAMA are still in the process of being validated and the constructs that have been built from it (explicit vs implicit aptitude) are becoming more and more flimsy as further research is published. Also, it is not so clear that the LLAMA test is language-independent, as it was first claimed. Therefore, depending on the approach of the research, it is still perfectly valid to use tests such as the MLAT, despite their "old age".

Dr Mª del Mar Suárez
Universitat de Barcelona

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Young learners’ bilingual status and cognitive development in foreign language aptitude testing, ITL - International Journal of Applied Linguistics, April 2023, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/itl.22017.sua.
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