[PS-1.20] L2 spelling proficiency is related to the capacity for Visual Statistical Learning (VSL), but negatively

Mak, H. C.

Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge

Background: A person?s VSL ability appears to be positively correlated with L1 and L2 literacy development. All research studies that examined this link looked only into reading ability, although spelling is a crucial component in literacy acquisition. Method: Twenty-five advanced English learners first completed a spelling test that contained 40 rare English vocabulary items, then, an embedded triplet task. Result: Very unexpectedly, the more proficient a speller is, the poorer their performance on the embedded triplet task. Explanations: 1. The participants, all of whom are native Cantonese Chinese speakers, are predisposed towards using declarative learning when it comes to English spelling due to the logographic nature of Chinese characters. Good spellers, relative to less proficient spellers, have used more declarative learning when they learnt English spelling. Given there exists a trade-off relation between declarative and procedural learning (i.e., see-saw effect), good spellers? ability to complete spelling-related procedural task (e.g., implicit VSL task) is weakened. 2. Positive correlation has been reported between L2 reading and VSL in beginning L2 learners, while the current study found no such a correlation in advanced L2 learners, suggesting that the importance of VSL in L2 literacy acquisition may diminish as L2 proficiency increases.