In the last decade or so, there has been a revived interest in studying the phonetic aspects of second language (L2) acquisition. In spite of increased research efforts, the representation and processing of L2 speech is still unclear. The aim of this session is to discuss the construction of a mental lexicon for L2 and the use of L1-specific speech processing strategies by L2 learners. A central issue is the extent to which words are stored as episodic traces or as abstract representations. This introductory paper summarises the two target papers by Cutler & Weber and Goldinger, and the views of the four commentators: Bradlow, Davidson, Maye and McLennan.