Skip to main content Accessibility help

Phonological translation in bilingual and monolingual children

  • D. Kimbrough Oller (a1), Alan B. Cobo-Lewis (a1) and Rebecca E. Eilers (a1)


Bilingual children face a variety of challenges that their monolingual peers do not. For instance, switching between languages requires the phonological translation of proper names, a skill that requires mapping the phonemic units of one language onto the phonemic units of the other. Proficiency of phonological awareness has been linked to reading success, but little information is available about phonological awareness across multiple phonologies. Furthermore, the relationship between this kind of phonological awareness and reading has never been addressed. The current study investigated phonological translation using a task designed to measure children's ability to map one phonological system onto another. A total of 425 kindergarten and second grade monolingual and bilingual students were evaluated. The results suggest that monolinguals generally performed poorly. Bilinguals translated real names more accurately than fictitious names, in both directions. Correlations between phonological translation and measures of reading ability were moderate, but reliable. Phonological translation is proposed as a tool with which to evaluate phonological awareness through the perspective of children who live with two languages and two attendant phonemic systems.


Corresponding author

University of Maine, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, L5 N. Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469


Hide All
Boswell, T. D., Curtis, J. R. (1983). The Cuban American experience: Culture, images andperspectives. Totowa, NJ: Rowman Allanheld.
Bradley, L., Bryant, P. (1983). Categorising sounds and learning to read: A causal connexion. Nature, 301, 419421.
Bradley, L., Bryant, P. (1985). Rhyme and reason in reading and spelling. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Bruck, M., Genesee, F. (1995). Phonological awareness in young second language learners. Journal of Child Language, 22, 307324.
Byrne, B., Freebody, P., Gates, A. (1992). Longitudinal data on the relations of word-readingstrategies to comprehension, reading time, and phonemic awareness. Reading ResearchQuarterly, 27. 141151.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P. (1983). Applied multiple regressioncorrelation analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cobo-Lewis, A. B., Umbel, V. M. (1997). Language and literacy in bilingual children: Compari-sons among monolinguals and bilinguals in standardized assessments of English proficiency. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development. Washington, DC.
Crowder, R. G., Wagner, R. K. (1991). The psychology of reading: An introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Cummins, J. (1985). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and pedagogy. SanDiego, CA: College-Hill Press.
Dunn, L., Dunn, L. (1981). Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Revised. Circle Pines, MN: Amer-ican Guidance Service.
Dunn, L, Padilla, E., Lugo, D., Dunn, L. (1986). Test de Vocabulario en Imgenes Peabody-Adaptacin Hispanoamericana [Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – Latin American adaptation]. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
Ehri, L. C. (1989). The development of spelling knowledge and its role in reading acquisition andreading disability. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22. 356365.
Eilers, R. E. (1997). Language and literacy in bilingual children: Deep description of languageusage in one-way and two-way schools. Poster symposium at the Society for Research in Child Development, Washington, DC.
Ervin-Tripp, S. M. (1974). Is second language learning like the first? TESOL Quarterly, 8, 111125.
Flege, J., Hammond, R. (1982). Mimicry of nondistinctive phonetic differences between languagevarieties. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5, 117.
Flege, J., Munro, M. (1994). The word unit in L2 speech production and perception. Studies inSecond Language Acquisition, 26, 381411.
Jorm, A., Share, D., MacLean, R., Matthews, R. (1984). Phonological similarity effects, memoryspan and developmental reading disorders. Applied Psycholinguistics, 5, 201207.
Juel, C, Griffith, P., Gough, P. (1986). Acquisition of literacy: A longitudinal study of childrenin first and second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 243255.
Kroll, J. (1993). Accessing conceptual representation for words in a second language. In Schreuder, R.Weltens, B. (eds.), The bilingual lexicon (pp. 83114). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Liberman, I. Y. (1983). A language-oriented view of reading and its disabilities. In Myklebust, H.(Ed.), Progress in learning disabilities (Vol. 5, pp. 81101). New York: Grune Stratton.
Mittingly, I. G. (1980). Reading, linguistic awareness, and language acquisition. Haskins Labora-tories Status Report on Speech Research, SR-61, 135150.
Nielsen, F., Fernandez, R. M. (1982). Achievement of Hispanic students in American highschools: Background characteristics and achievement. Washington, DC: U.S. GovernmentPrinting Office.
Prez, L. (1986). Cubans in the United States. Annals of the American Academy of Political andSocial Sciences. 487, 126137.
Rubin, H., Turner, A. (1989). Linguistic awareness skills in grade one children in a Frenchimmersion setting. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 1, 7386.
Tunmer, W. E., Rohl, M. (1989). Phonological awareness and reading acquisition. In Sawyer, D.Fox, B. (eds.), Phonological awareness in reading: The evolution of current perspec-tives (pp. 130). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Umbel, V. M., Cobo-Lewis, A. B. (1997). Language and literacy in bilingual children: Performance of bilingual children in standardized tests of English- and Spanish-language proficiency. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child development, Washington, DC.
Vellutino, F., Scanlon, D. M. (1987). Phonological coding, phonological awareness, and readingability: Evidence from longitudinal and experimental study. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 33,321364.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal rolein the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 192212.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., Laughon, P., Simmons, K., Rashotte, C. A. (1993). Developmentof young readers phonological processing abilities. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85,83103.
Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., Rashotte, C. A. (1994). Development of reading-related phono-logical processing abilities: New evidence of bidirectional causality from a latent variablelongitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 30, 7387.
Woodcock, R. W. (1981a). Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery. Riverside, CA: DLM TeachingResources.
Woodcock, R. W. (1981b). Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery - Spanish Form. Riverside, CA: DLM Teach-ing Resources.
Woodcock, R. W. (1982). Bateria Woodcock Psico-educativa en Espafiol. Riverside, CA: DLM Teaching Resources.
Woodcock, R. W., Johnson, M. B. (1977). Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery. Riverside, CA: DLM Teaching Resources.
Zuengler, J. (1985). Identity markers in L2 pronunciation. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 10, 3339.

Phonological translation in bilingual and monolingual children

  • D. Kimbrough Oller (a1), Alan B. Cobo-Lewis (a1) and Rebecca E. Eilers (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed