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Executive control performance and foreign-language proficiency associated with immersion education in French-speaking Belgium

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2019

Morgane Simonis*
Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Lize Van der Linden
Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Benoit Galand
Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Philippe Hiligsmann
Institut Langage et Communication, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium
Arnaud Szmalec
Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium Institute of Neuroscience, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Belgium
Address for correspondence: Morgane Simonis, E-mail:


A large sample study (n = 513) was conducted to investigate executive control performance in pupils following an immersion education program. We recruited 10-year-old children (n = 128) and 16-year-old adolescents (n = 127) who were enrolled in English or Dutch immersion education in French-speaking Belgium for at least 4 school years. They were compared to non-immersed children (n = 102) and adolescents (n = 156) on a number of executive control tasks assessing inhibitory control, monitoring, switching and attentional abilities. Several control variables such as receptive vocabulary, nonverbal intelligence, socioeconomic status and other potentially relevant background variables were also considered. Our results show significant gains in foreign-language proficiency for the immersed compared to the non-immersed participants. These gains were however not associated with any measurable benefits on executive control. Our findings make a unique contribution to understanding how language and cognition develop through formal education methods that promote bilingualism.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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Executive control performance and foreign-language proficiency associated with immersion education in French-speaking Belgium
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