Neuropsychological performance of native versus non-native English speakers

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2012 Nov;27(7):749-55. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acs082. Epub 2012 Sep 17.


Relatively little is known about differences in English-administered, clinical neuropsychological test performance between native versus non-native English speakers, with prior literature yielding mixed findings. The purpose of this study was to examine the performance of native and non-native English speakers with similar age and educational backgrounds on a variety of cognitive tests. Participants were 153 university students (115 native and 38 non-native English speakers) who completed a neuropsychological battery during two testing sessions. Multiple regression analyses examined relations of native language to cognitive performance after adjustment for age, education, sex, and depressive symptomatology. Results showed that native English speakers outperformed non-native English speakers on several language-mediated tasks-Letter and Category Fluency and the Cognitive Estimation Test-as well as Trails A (p's < .05). The two groups performed similarly on tests of executive functions, perceptuo-motor speed, verbal memory, and visuospatial abilities. These results suggest that non-native English language may have a negative influence predominantly on language-dependent tasks.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Verbal Behavior*
  • Young Adult