Direct and indirect effects of multilingualism on novel language learning: An integrative review

Zoya Hirosh, Tamar Degani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Accumulated recent research suggests that prior knowledge of multiple languages leads to advantages in learning additional languages. In the current article, we review studies examining potential differences between monolingual and multilingual speakers in novel language learning in an effort to uncover the cognitive mechanisms that underlie such differences. We examine the multilingual advantage in children and adults, across a wide array of languages and learner populations. The majority of this literature focused on vocabulary learning, but studies that address phonology, grammar, and literacy learning are also discussed to provide a comprehensive picture of the way in which multilingualism affects novel language learning. Our synthesis indicates two avenues to the multilingual advantage including direct transfer of prior knowledge and prior skills as well as indirect influences that result from multilingual background and include more general changes to the cognitive-linguistic system. Finally, we highlight topics that are in need of future systematic research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-916
Number of pages25
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an EU-FP7 Grant CIG-322016 and the Language Learning Small Grants Research Program. The authors wish to thank Anat Prior, Jared Linck, and an anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Bilingualism
  • Grammar
  • Literacy
  • Multilingualism
  • Novel language learning
  • Phonology
  • Transfer
  • Vocabulary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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