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Spelling development in bilingual and monolingual children in grade one Hall, Erin Kathleen

Abstract

This study compared the oral language, phonological awareness, reading, and spelling skills of Tagalog-English bilingual, Chinese-English bilingual, and monolingual Englishspeaking children in Grade 1. The bilingual children performed more poorly than the monolinguals on measures of oral proficiency in English, but demonstrated equivalent overall performance on phonological awareness, reading, and spelling tasks. However, there were significant differences between the two bilingual groups on several measures: the Tagalog- English bilinguals outperformed the Chinese-English group in terms of phonological awareness, word reading, and pseudoword reading, and the patterns of correlations between these and the spelling measures also differed across groups. More detailed analyses of the children’s spelling performance also revealed group differences, as the Chinese-English children demonstrated difficulty spelling certain words, as well as the phoneme /Ø/. However, other aspects of the children’s spelling performance were more similar across groups: all children showed poorer performance in spelling pseudowords as compared with real words, and in a confrontation pseudoword spelling task, all three groups struggled with orthographically illegitimate as compared with legitimate letter strings. In addition, certain features of English spelling were equally difficult for all children to spell. These results are discussed in terms of languagegeneral vs. language-specific processes in literacy development, as well as possible effects of the children’s language and literacy experiences.

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