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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Influence of language immersion and phonological-based instruction on literacy skills of English language learners in Xi’an, China Huo, Shuting


Every child in China is required to learn English as a foreign language (EFL) in elementary school. They learn to not only speak the language but also read and write. Phonological awareness and phonological decoding are foundational skills to learning to read in English. Teaching these skills to young children can enhance their performance on word reading and spelling. Meanwhile, many Chinese children speak and understand very little English due to the lack of English language input in their daily lives. This research investigated the effectiveness of the phonological-based instruction, namely phonological awareness instruction and phonics, among Chinese children. I also examined the moderating effects of English oral language proficiency and language learning environment on the instructional effectiveness. Study 1 is a longitudinal study which followed 110 Chinese children who were learning English as a foreign language throughout an academic year in a school located in Xi’an, China, during which the students received systematic instruction on phonics. The participants were from two programs: one was an English immersion program in which intensive English instruction was delivered, and the other was the standardized program wherein students received less intensive English instruction. Developmental trajectories of two groups of students were compared. The findings indicated that the two groups improved at the same rate on real word reading, but students in the immersion program improved faster in pseudoword reading. Study 2 investigated the effectiveness of phonological awareness (PA) instruction in primary school EFL students. Eight classes from a school in Xi’an, China, were randomly assigned into two groups. Experimental classes received ten weeks of instruction, for a total of 380 minutes of instruction, on phonological awareness. The findings indicated that immediately after the instruction, the experimental group performed better at phonemic awareness and pseudoword reading. The instructional effects were not, however, sustained five months later after all the participants received phonics instruction. English expressive vocabulary at pretest significantly moderated the instructional effect on phonemic awareness. The results consistently suggested that Chinese children with better English oral proficiency and in enriched English language environment benefit more from the English phonological-based instruction.

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