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Spelling performance of Chinese children using English as a second language: Lexical and visual–orthographic processes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2003

University of Toronto
University of Toronto


The present study compared lexical and visual–orthographic processing in the spelling performance of 30 Cantonese Chinese children who are English as a second language (ESL) learners to that of 33 native English-speaking (L1) children. Chinese ESL children showed poorer performance in spelling to dictation of pseudowords than L1 children. The difference between real word and pseudoword spelling performances for ESL children was significantly greater than that for L1 children. Moreover, Chinese ESL children outperformed their L1 counterparts in a confrontation spelling task of orthographically legitimate and illegitimate letter strings. In line with their advantage in spelling visually presented materials, the difference between spelling performance on legitimate and illegitimate letter strings for the Chinese children was significantly smaller than that for the L1 children. These findings are discussed in terms of early transfer of L1 literacy skills in second language literacy acquisition and support for a multiroute reading model.

Research Article
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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