Recall in many types of verbal memory task is reliably disrupted by the presence of auditory distracters, with verbal distracters frequently proving the most disruptive (Beaman, 2005). A multinomial processing tree model (Schweickert, 1993) is applied to the effects on free recall of background speech from a known or an unknown language. The model reproduces the free recall curve and the impact on memory of verbal distracters for which a lexical entry exists (i.e., verbal items from a known language). The effects of semantic relatedness of distracters within a language is found to depend upon a redintegrative factor thought to reflect the contribution of the speech-production system. The differential impacts of known and unknown languages cannot be accounted for in this way, but the same effects of distraction are observed amongst bilinguals, regardless of distracter-language.