Abstract

Objective: The California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-II) is a wordlist learning task that assesses underlying processes of learning. While language proficiency is always a concern for persons being tested in a second language, it is unclear whether differences in language abilities of native language will impact underlying learning processes of verbal learning. Thus, the purpose of this study is to determine the impact of native language proficiency on learning processes during list learning tests. Method: 28 cognitively healthy older adults were recruited for this study. All participants endorsed native English abilities, indicated “good” or “excellent” English fluency, and did not speak a second language. The CVLT-II and the four subtests from the Woodcock-Munoz Language Survey (WMLS-R) were administered to participants. Four subtests of the WMLS-R, including Dictation, Passage Comprehension, Story Recall, and Understanding Directions, make up a proficiency score used as a proxy for language proficiency. Results: Language proficiency was correlated with all learning process scores. Results indicated that participants with lower language proficiency committed a greater number of repetition and intrusion errors (p < 0.5). A follow-up regression analysis, controlling for years of education, indicated a significantly higher rate of repetition and intrusion errors despite the level of education of participants (p < .05). Conclusion(s): Participants with lower language proficiency were more likely to make source memory errors on the list learning task, despite controlling for years of education. These results suggest that even when assessing individuals in their native language, consideration should be given to native language proficiency to avoid possible misattribution of errors during test interpretation.