Cognitive–linguistic foundations of early spelling development in bilinguals.
Developing spelling skills in English is a particularly demanding task for Chinese speakers because, unlike many other bilinguals learning English as a second language, they must learn two languages with different orthography as well as phonology. To disentangle socioeconomic and pedagogical factors from the underlying cognitive–linguistic processes that predict the development of spelling, we used a 6-month longitudinal design and compared children with English as their first language (English-L1; n = 50) and children with Mandarin as their first language (Mandarin-L1; n = 50) from the same kindergarten. Both groups were tested on parallel versions of English and Mandarin tasks as predictors at Time 1, and their spelling sophistication scores were then computed from a 52-item experimental task administered at Time 2. After we controlled for nonverbal IQ, age, vocabulary, and spelling achievement on Wide Range Achievement Test 4 at Time 1, regression analyses showed that phoneme awareness was the strongest predictor of spelling sophistication for English-L1 children, but syllable awareness and letter-sound knowledge were also important for Mandarin-L1 children. The implications of these differences in the cognitive–linguistic processing of bilingual children learning two dissimilar languages are briefly discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)
from the Journal of Educational Psychology