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Phonological awareness and developmental spelling : a pilot study comparison of monolingual English-speaking children and ESL-learning children Vigue, Anna Marie

Abstract

Research in the area of phonological awareness and young children has shown that phonological awareness skills are extremely important and positively correlated with the development of spelling and reading abilities. There is limited research investigating phonological awareness and spelling abilities in English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)-learning children. So far it has been found that the phonological awareness skills of ESL-learning children are similar to those of native English-speaking children and they are also positively related to spelling and reading skills. Previous research that has examined the advantages of bilingual children over monolingual children has found that bilingual children develop skills of metalinguistic awareness earlier than monolingual children. In other studies, skills from bilingual children's first language have been found to transfer both positively and negatively to their spelling in English. Differing results have been found with respect to the spelling abilities of ESL-learning children and native English-speaking children. Some studies have found greater spelling abilities for ESL-learning children whereas others have demonstrated lower or equal abilities compared to native English-speaking children. In order to further examine the spelling skills of ESL-learning children, this study was developed to address the following research questions: (1) Are there significant differences in the number of spelling errors made by ESL-learning children and children with English as their native language? (2) Are the errors influenced by the sounds used (phonology) in the first language of the child? (3) Are the errors influenced by the child's exposure to print and literacy activities? (4) Are the number of spelling errors correlated with the child's degree of phonological awareness in English? Participants in this study were three Vietnamese ESL-learning children and five monolingual native English-speaking children. Three of the native English-speaking children were receiving Speech-Language Pathology services. Tasks used in the study were an articulation evaluation, a letter identification task, three phonological awareness tasks, two reading tasks and two spelling tasks. Background questionnaires were filled out by the children's parents to provide information about home literacy experience. When interpreting the results it is important to keep in mind that three of the monolingual English-speaking children were receiving speech and language services and this could affect differences found between language groups. The results indicated that by the end of grade one the three ESL-learning children outperformed their native English-speaking peers on real word spelling and had fewer spelling errors. Moreover, the phonology of the ESL-learning children's first language did not appear to influence errors in their speech or spelling in English. Children who were read to at an earlier age and more often performed better on non-word spelling. Those children with high spelling scores also had higher reading levels. Finally, phoneme deletion and phoneme deletion and substitution were highly correlated with real word spelling for both groups of children. These results lead to important for future research in studies with children from different language backgrounds as well as clinical importance to Speech-Language Pathologists.

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