In this article, we address the question of whether exposure to the translated output of MT systems could result in changes in the cognitive processing of English as a second language (L2 English). To answer this question, we first conducted a survey with 90 Brazilian Portuguese L2 English speakers with the aim of understanding how and for what purposes they use web-based MT systems. To investigate whether MT systems are capable of influencing L2 English cognitive processing, we carried out a syntactic priming experiment with 32 Brazilian Portuguese speakers. We wanted to test whether speakers re-use in their subsequent speech in English the same syntactic alternative previously seen in the MT output, when using the popular Google Translate system to translate sentences from Portuguese into English. The results of the survey show that Brazilian Portuguese L2 English speakers use Google Translate as a tool supporting their speech in English as well as a source of English vocabulary learning. The results of the syntactic priming experiment show that exposure to an English syntactic alternative through GT can lead to the re-use of the same syntactic alternative in subsequent speech even if it is not the speaker’s preferred syntactic alternative in English. These findings suggest that GT is being used as a tool for language learning purposes and so is indeed capable of rewiring the processing of L2 English syntax.
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