Clinical Forum  |   July 2007
The Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Early Literacy Skills: The Role of Initial L1 and L2 Skills and Language of Instruction
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan
    The Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics, University of Houston, TX
  • Coleen D. Carlson
    The Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics, University of Houston, TX
  • Sharolyn D. Pollard-Durodola
    Texas A&M University, College Station
  • Contact author: Elsa Cardenas-Hagan, 856 West Price Road, Brownsville, TX 78520. E-mail: Elsa.Hagan@times.uh.edu.
Article Information
Development / Special Populations / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Normal Language Processing / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Clinical Forum
Clinical Forum   |   July 2007
The Cross-Linguistic Transfer of Early Literacy Skills: The Role of Initial L1 and L2 Skills and Language of Instruction
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2007, Vol. 38, 249-259. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2007/026)
History: Received November 8, 2005 , Revised April 19, 2006 , Accepted November 21, 2006
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, July 2007, Vol. 38, 249-259. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2007/026)
History: Received November 8, 2005; Revised April 19, 2006; Accepted November 21, 2006
Web of Science® Times Cited: 13

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of initial first and second language proficiencies as well as the language of instruction that a student receives on the relationship between native language ability of students who are English language learners (ELLs) and their development of early literacy skills and the second language.

Method: This study investigated the development of early language and literacy skills among Spanish-speaking students in 2 large urban school districts, 1 middle-size urban district, and 1 border district. A total of 1,016 ELLs in kindergarten participated in the study. Students were administered a comprehensive battery of tests in English and Spanish, and classroom observations provided information regarding the Spanish or English language use of the teacher.

Results: Findings from this study suggest that Spanish-speaking students with high Spanish letter name and sound knowledge tend to show high levels of English letter name and sound knowledge. ELLs with low Spanish and English letter name and sound knowledge tend to show high levels of English letter name and sound knowledge when they are instructed in English. Letter name and sound identification skills are fairly highly positively correlated across languages in the beginning of the kindergarten year. In addition, phonological awareness skills appear to be the area with the most significant and direct transfer of knowledge, and language skills do not appear to be a factor in the development of phonological awareness. Finally, the relationship between oral language skills across languages was low, suggesting little relationship between oral language skills across languages at the beginning of the kindergarten year.

Implications for Practice: Results from this study suggest that pedagogical decisions for ELLs should not only consider effective instructional literacy strategies but also acknowledge that the language of instruction for Spanish-speaking ELLs may produce varying results for different students.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This research was supported in part by Grant PO1HD39521, Oracy/ Literacy Development of Spanish-Speaking Students, which was jointly funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Education Sciences. The attitudes and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies. The authors wish to thank their many collaborators, coworkers, students, parents, and district officials who made this research possible.
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