Decision Making in English as an Additional Language: Surprises and Advantages

Steve Daniel Przymus, Zachary Brooks


Do adult learners of English make different and sometimes better decisions in English than their monolingual peers and teachers? It is likely, possible, and probable. Using evidence from classroom decision making studies, with over 500 participants, we demonstrate that often adult English learners (henceforth adult Active Bilingual Learners/Users of English [ABLE]) make more accurate decisions in English than first language English speakers, when given time and the ability to utilize their whole linguistic repertoire (i.e., translanguaging). We specifically look at differences in decisions that involve 1) common adverbs of frequency (rare, possible, likely, frequently, etc.) and 2) system 1 (implicit) vs. system 2 (analytical) thinking in cognitive reflection tests, such as math story problems. Understanding these surprising differences and advantages in decision making in English as an Additional Language (EAL) has important practical implications for test preparation and daily instruction for adult ABLE students, and potentially as well for ABLE youth in K-12 schools.

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