Cross-language transfer of phonological and orthographic processing skills in Spanish-speaking children learning to read and spell in English
Sun-Alperin, Marlene Kendra
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This dissertation included two studies designed to examine how young children acquire biliteracy skills. Specifically, I aimed to determine how reading and spelling acquisition in English second language (L2) is influenced by Spanish first language (L1). Study 1 investigated the contribution of Spanish phonological and orthographic processing skills to English reading and spelling in 89 Spanish-English bilingual children in grades 2 (n = 42) and 3 (n = 47). Comparable measures in English and Spanish tapping phonological and orthographic processing were administered to the bilingual children and to 53 monolingual English-speaking children in grades 2 (n = 32) and 3 (n = 21) as a comparison group. We found that cross language phonological and orthographic transfer occurs from Spanish to English for real word and pseudoword reading. However, Spanish orthographic processing only predicted reading, not spelling. Study 2 examined spelling errors committed on specific linguistic units - vowels that are spelled differently in the two languages (i.e., contrastive vowels) - to determine whether Spanish-speaking children spell these vowels using Spanish spelling rules. Participants for Study 2 were carefully recruited; these Spanish-speaking students had received about 2.2 years of literacy instruction in their native language, ensuring that they would have adequate orthographic knowledge to read and spell in Spanish. Error analyses indicated that the 27 native Spanish-speaking children who received prior literacy instruction in Spanish did indeed spell these contrastive vowels using Spanish orthography; therefore, these errors were influenced by their L1 orthographic knowledge. Taken together, these two studies highlight the importance of taking into consideration bilingual children's L1 phonological and orthographic knowledge in understanding L2 reading and spelling acquisition. The results of the two studies enhance the theoretical frameworks by providing empirical evidence to support the notion that bilingual children are indeed both positively and negatively affected by the differences in orthographic depths of the languages.