Using the theoretical frameworks proposed by Cummins (1981a) and Bialystok and Ryan (1985), this research was designed to shed light on the relationship between cognitive correlates and linguistic skills in first (L1) and second (L2) language, and the extent to which performance on academic tasks in L2 can be predicted by these factors. The study was conducted with 73 Grade 5–7 children attending a bilingual English-Hebrew day school. The test battery included a measure of intelligence, measures of linguistic knowledge in L1, measures of reading comprehension in L1 and L2 and static and working memory measures in L1 and L2.

Evidence was found for the theoretical notion that with increased speed of basic processing in L2, higher level cognitive processes involved in linguistic and oral communication in academic settings are facilitated. Additionally, results suggest that children who can more systematically employ analytic functions in their L1 are more likely to do so in their L2 as well, and that performance on linguistically demanding tasks such as reading in L2 can be more accurately predicted with the aid of information on memory storage and executive control functions, in combination with underlying intelligence and L2 oral proficiency. Results highlight the important role that memory plays in performing linguistic tasks in L2 and help to explain underlying ability factors related to Cummins' interdependence hypothesis.