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Phonological translation in bilingual and monolingual children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

D. Kimbrough Oller*
University of Maine
Alan B. Cobo-Lewis
University of Maine
Rebecca E. Eilers
University of Maine
University of Maine, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, L5 N. Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469


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.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1998

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