This study was designed to test the hypothesis that variables such as word frequency, which are known to affect semantic memory, would have more influence on how quickly words were translated from English to French, or vice versa, than would variables such as imagery, which are known to affect episodic memory.
Students whose second language was French were presented with 145 words, with instructions that they translate them into French. Measures of accuracy and reaction time were taken. French-English translation of the same words was also investigated. Seventeen other characteristics of these words were also known from previous surveys. The results of a multiple regression analysis and a factor analysis indicated that translation efficiency was most strongly influenced by the frequency of the word in the language, its familiarity, and the similarity of the French equivalent to the English word. Variables such as emotionality and imagery, known to influence retrieval in episodic memory paradigms, had little influence on translation time.