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Dr. Yanjing Wu Talks on Unconscious Translation in the Bilingual Mind

time: 2014-05-27 10:49:42


       In his talk, Dr. Wu firstly introduced the worldwide phenomenon of bilingualism. Based on classic models of bilingual mental lexicon and empirical studies, he pointed out that a lot of studies on non-target language activation in bilingual processing were completed in bilingual context or using language switching paradigm. He suggested that those data cannot be used to directly support the non-selective hypothesis of bilingual lexical access. Dr. Wu designed a study using event-related potentials (ERPs) with high temporal resolution to test whether first language will be automatically activated when bilinguals process their second language. In his study, Dr. Wu invited English monolinguals and Chinese-English bilinguals to make semantic relatedness judgment on English word pairs, such as Wood-Carpenter, Doctor-Nurse, Ham-Train, and Pen-House. Interestingly, he also manipulated the translation of those English word pairs: half of the English word pairs when translated into Chinese shared the first character, such as Wood-Carpenter and Ham-Train. For comparison, Dr. Wu also recruited a group of Chinese monolinguals and asked them to make the same semantic relatedness judgment on the translations of those English stimuli in the ERP study. Results showed that regardless of the modalities, Chinese-English bilinguals showed different N400 (An ERP component relevant with semantic processing) amplitude when the translation of English word pairs shared the first character, compared to the condition without first character repetition. The ERP pattern observed in the Chinese monolingual group was congruent with that of the Chinese-English bilinguals, indicating Chinese-English bilinguals, when processing L2, translate L2 into their first language automatically and unconsciously.  
    The talk lasted about two hours. Dr. Wu gave a detailed introduction on his recent works and current frontline of bilingual field. His studies and findings aroused a lot of interests and discussion in the audience, who thought highly of Dr. Wu and his work.