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Emergent bilinguals (EBs) who are exposed to societal language at school but use another language at home may experience difficulties in mastering the societal language, especially those at risk for language and reading disabilities. Learning phonologically specific new words that discriminate between phonemes may foster phonological awareness and word reading. This study examined the effectiveness of a lexical specificity intervention program that targeted phoneme discrimination in EBs at risk for reading disabilities. EBs who scored below the 25th percentile on the screening measures were selected and randomly assigned to one of two conditions: at-risk intervention or at-risk control. Of the 76 EBs in the at-risk group, 40 were randomly assigned to receive the intervention. A group of 51 typically developing EBs who did not meet the risk criteria were selected as typical controls. The pre- and post-tests include phoneme discrimination, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, fluency, and decoding. The at-risk intervention group showed improvement on the phoneme discrimination task after the intervention and outperformed the at-risk control group but not the typical control group. In addition, growth was observed during both the training and testing sessions of the intervention. The lexical specificity intervention could be a good resource to enhance a key precursor to literacy development for at-risk EBs.
The present study investigated the contribution of cognitive, linguistic, and contextual factors to the narrative production of Norwegian second language learners. We assessed cognitive ability and first and second language proficiency in 66 kindergarten children with Urdu/Punjabi as their first language. Number of children's books in the home and time spent in kindergarten were treated as contextual factors. Oral narration was assessed in Grade 1. A series of fixed-order hierarchical regression analyses displayed a complex relationship among cognitive, linguistic, and contextual factors and various facets of narrative production of young second language learners; nonverbal ability and books in the home predicted the mastering of story (macro)structure, while linguistic (vocabulary and grammar) and both contextual variables predicted microaspects of narrative proficiency. The results suggest that combining home book reading practices, kindergarten attendance, and second language interventions might improve language minority children's narrative production and chances of school success.
This study examined the effects of first language characteristics on the development of two aspects of English morphological awareness: derivational and compound awareness in English language learners (ELLs) with Chinese or Spanish as their first language. It also assessed the contribution of derivational and compound awareness to word reading in the two groups of ELLs as well as in monolingual English-speaking children. Participants included 89 Spanish-speaking ELLs, 77 Chinese-speaking ELLs, and 78 monolingual English-speaking children from Grade 4 and Grade 7. Results showed that Chinese-speaking ELLs performed similarly to monolingual English speakers on English compound awareness, and monolingual English speakers outperformed Spanish-speaking ELLs. Spanish-speaking ELLs and monolingual children, in contrast, both outperformed Chinese-speaking ELLs on derivational awareness. Another key finding was that in all three groups of children, morphological awareness made a unique contribution to word reading after controlling for nonverbal ability, maternal education, and other reading related variables. These results underscore the influence of first language structure on the development of second language morphological awareness, and the similar contribution of morphological awareness to word reading across monolinguals and ELLs.
This study modeled vocabulary trajectories in 91 English language learners (ELLs) with Punjabi, Tamil, or Portuguese home languages, and 50 English monolinguals (EL1) from Grades 1 to 6. The concurrent and longitudinal relationships between phonological awareness and phonological short-term memory and vocabulary were examined. ELLs underperformed EL1s on vocabulary across all grades. Although vocabulary grew faster in ELLs than in EL1s in the primary grades, they did not close the gap after 6 years of English schooling. Mutual facilitation was found between phonological awareness, English-like nonwords, and vocabulary. A unidirectional relationship was found between Hebrew-like nonwords and vocabulary suggesting that the relationship between phonological short-term memory and vocabulary can be more accurately captured when using nonwords based on a remote, unfamiliar language.
Do older English as a second language (ESL) children have the same knowledge of word meanings as English as a first language (EL1) children? How important is vocabulary's role in predicting word recognition in these groups? This study sought to answer these questions by examining the profiles of ESL and EL1 upper elementary aged children, for a 2-year period starting in Grade 5. Multivariate analyses revealed that (a) EL1 and ESL groups did not differ on underlying processing components (e.g., phonological awareness [PA], rapid automatized naming [RAN], and working memory [WM]) or on word recognition, but ESL children continued to lag behind their EL1 peers on knowledge of word meanings that correspond approximately to their grade level; and (b) vocabulary knowledge (root words and receptive vocabulary), explained a small proportion of additional variance on word recognition concurrently and longitudinally after accounting for the contributions of PA, RAN, and WM.
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.
This chapter reviews recent empirical evidence for universal and orthography- or language-specific processes in the development of basic reading skills in school age children, suggesting that universal and orthography- or language-specific processes should be considered in tandem. The review focuses on three different aspects of reading, phonological processing, rapid naming, and morphosyntactic complexity, targeted in recent research on development of word recognition skills. Studies on L1 school children and studies of children who learn to read concurrently in their L1 and/or in a second language (L2) are examined within the context of variations in orthographic transparency. When children learn to read, characteristics of the spoken language interact with characteristics of the orthography. The chapter concludes that (a) individual differences in phonological processing skills, verbal memory, and rapid naming predict the development of reading in L1 and L2 children in various alphabetic and nonalphabetic languages; and (b) individual differences on such prerequisite skills can indicate smooth or problematic acquisition of L2 reading skills in children, regardless of oral language proficiency. However, task demands associated with learning to read in different orthographies vary and yield steeper or more moderate learning slopes. Regardless of the language and orthography combinations under study, children can develop reading strategies that help them read.
The present study investigated the role of phonological and orthographic processing skills in adult second language reading. The subjects were 60 ESL graduate students; all were native speakers of Farsi. Three types of ESL reading measures were used as criterion variables: reading comprehension, silent reading rate, and the ability to recognize individual words. Data were analyzed using correlational and hierarchical multiple regression. Efficiency in phonological and orthographic processing contributed significantly to individual differences on the reading measures. In particular, efficiency in orthographic processing contributed to the reading measures independently of syntactic and semantic measures. The study suggests that it is useful to consider individual differences in ESL reading with respect to individual differences in lower level processes – particularly the efficiency with which readers process phonological and orthographic information.
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