Open Access

Second Language Working Memory Deficits and Plasticity in Hearing Bimodal Learners of Sign Language


Little is known about the acquisition of another language modality on second language (L2) working memory (WM) capacity. Differential indexing within the WM system based on language modality may explain differences in performance on WM tasks in sign and spoken language. We investigated the effect of language modality (sign versus spoken) on L2 WM capacity. Results indicated reduced L2 WM span relative to first language span for both L2 learners of Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL). Importantly, ASL learners had lower L2 WM spans than Spanish learners. Additionally, ASL learners increased their L2 WM spans as a function of proficiency, whereas Spanish learners did not. This pattern of results demonstrated that acquiring another language modality disadvantages ASL learners. We posited that this disadvantage arises out of an inability to correctly and efficiently allocate linguistic information to the visuospatial sketchpad due to L1-related indexing bias.

Publication timeframe:
1 time per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Psychology, Applied Psychology