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Exploring the Role of Proficiency as a Mediator of the Relationship between Working Memory and Text Comprehension in the L2
Second language (L2) learners rely heavily on working memory for both bottom-up and top-down processing due to difficulties they encounter in comprehending written or oral texts. L2 proficiency is said to mediate the relationship between WM and text comprehension in that WM’s role seems to diminish at higher levels of proficiency and is observed only in tasks that require complex cognitive operations. The current study aims to examine the relationship between WM and text comprehension in relation to proficiency level and task demands through between and within groups experimental design. Reading and listening performances of intermediate and upper-intermediate learners of English were assessed at the beginning and at the end of a 14-week long semester. A reading span test in L1 was used as a measure of WM capacity. WM’s relationship to L2 listening and reading was examined both across the two proficiency groups and within each group in relation to pre- and post-test measures. While the findings did not yield a significant relationship between WM and reading comprehension, proficiency level was found to mediate WM’s effect on listening comprehension.

Working memory, language proficiency, L2 listening comprehension, L2 reading comprehension.

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