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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Biliteracy acquisition in Korean-English bilingual children : phonological, syntactic, working memory and orthographic skills Kim, Julie Ji Seon


A great deal is known about the development of reading and related skills in native English-speaking (L1) children, yet not much is known about reading in children who are learners of English as a Second Language (ESL), especially with children who grow up learning two languages concurrently. The present study investigated reading, phonological, syntactic, orthographic, and working memory skills of Korean-English bilingual children who learn how to read and write in both languages concurrently. The participants were children between the ages 5 and 13 (from Kindergarten to Grade 6) who received English schooling, and at the same time, enrolled in the Korean Heritage Language Programs. Fifty-nine children were included in the analysis, and a comparison monolingual group was drawn from an existing research data. For cross-linguistic evidence, there was a significant correlation between Korean word reading and English phonological awareness in kindergarten and grade 1, although no significant relationship was found in older grades. Neither oral cloze nor working memory had cross-language significance in correlations with word reading in Korean and in English. Korean orthographic awareness had no correlation with English orthographic awareness, English spelling and reading. In kindergarten and grade 1, there were significant mean differences between monolingual and bilingual children in several measures. Reading performance in bilingual sample was significantly higher than the monolingual sample, whereas bilingual children’s language skills (syntactic awareness in grade 1, phonological awareness, working memory) were significantly lower than the ones of L1 speakers. However, in grades 2 and higher, monolingual and bilingual children performed similarly. In conclusion, as expected, phonological awareness was significantly related to reading in each respective language. The finding also supports the grain size theory regarding the levels of phonological awareness; Korean employing predominantly syllable level in its shallow orthography, paired with the fact that is an easily-decodable shallow orthography, syllable level phoneme awareness is more important in reading in Korean than phoneme level awareness. Linguistic interdependence hypothesis is partially supported regarding the transfer of phonological awareness. Other three skills, syntactic awareness, working memory, and orthographic awareness were not related significantly across languages, supporting script-dependence hypothesis for those three skills.

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