This research area in this project explores the cognitive aspects of what it means to be multilingual. Given the long-term objective of the EU to have all its citizens speak two languages in addition to their mother tongue, understanding how and why people succeed or fail in learning multiple languages is critical.

Within this research area, AThEME researchers are interested in three particular aspects:

  • Their first aim is to gain more knowledge of how factors like age-of-onset (the age at which an individual learns a second language) and language distance (how much one language differs from another) affect the final outcome of a person’s second language acquisition. They aim to uncover the factors which best predict how well somebody learns a second or third language. Both behavioural experiments as well as neurophysiological experiments will be conducted.
  • The second aim of these AThEME researchers is to investigate the direct effects of multilingualism on human interaction. For example how are certain processes in conversations, such as sentence comprehension, affected when foreign speakers are involved? Or how is sentence comprehension of speakers influenced when exposed to foreign-accented speech?
  • A third and final aim in this research area is to collect more data and gain more knowledge of the relationship between language and other mental operations, like attention and memory. In other words, AThEME researchers aim to investigate the effects of multilingual interaction on a neurocognitive level.

Traditionally, multilingualism has been investigated with behavioural methods such as questionnaires and experiments set up to measure reaction times. In this project researchers will include neurocognitive measures using EEG/ERP (measures of electrical activity of the brain) and fMRI (measurements of brain activity by means of changes in blood flow) in specially designed labs in the various countries of participating researchers.


Our research team consists of researchers from 11 institutions across 6 EU countries.
Meet our team leaders:



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