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The current study sought to understand the effects of two languages on selective attention in a complex listening environment. Adult second language learners of Spanish of high or low proficiency attended to one spoken message in one ear while ignoring another from their other ear in a dichotic listening task. The language of each message was either English or Spanish. While both proficiency level groups performed worse on the dichotic listening task when attending to their second language, the high proficiency group was significantly better than the low proficiency group at attending to their second language and ignoring their native language. These results imply that late second language learners can develop some of the same cognitive abilities, such as improved selective attention, as are associated with early proficient bilinguals.

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