Acquisition of reading and spelling skills of German-French biliterate children in Luxembourg

by Ugen, Sonja S

Abstract (Summary)
The general aim of this longitudinal study was to look at literacy acquisition of multilingual good and poor spellers (hereafter GS and PS) in German and French with a special emphasis on spelling. For this purpose GS and PS were selected in grade 2 in German and followed up to grade 4. The focus was on this period as in Luxembourg literacy is acquired through German from the first grade and written French from grade 3 on. The interval between grades 2 and 4 thus represents a critical period for written second language acquisition. The native language of the children, Germanic (e.g. Luxembourgish) or Romanophone (e.g. Portuguese), adds another linguistic characteristic. Research focused at the development of biliteracy but some multilingual aspects were analyzed. Abstract The first two studies differentiate between top-level processes related to semantics (e.g. vocabulary) and bottom level processes implied in literacy (e.g. spelling). The first two studies established that the native language has an impact on reading comprehension as Germanic speaking children have an advantage on German tasks and Romanophone children an advantage on French tasks. By contrast, performances on bottom-level processes such as spelling and reading are not influenced by the native language. Structural equation models revealed that German top-level processes did not influence French top-level processes. Concerning bottom-level processes however, there was an influence from one academic year on the following as well as from German on French. Abstract The last three studies focused on differences between biliterate GS and PS in German and in French. The third study examined the reading and spelling strategies (e.g. the application of orthographic rules) that both groups of children acquired in German and in French. Although GS outperformed PS, their overall reading and spelling performance patterns were different in German than in French. GS applied orthographic rules more systematically than PS in German. In French, both groups were strongly affected by frequency effects. The word frequency effect appeared clearly in French, showing that after one year of instruction children strongly rely on the orthographic lexicon for spelling and do not apply orthographic rules systematically. Study 4 establishes the link between the recognition and production of orthographic features. PS's performance is similar to GS's on orthographic judgments and for spelling they produce the same type of errors, showing GS and PS are sensitive to the underlying regularities of the orthography. However, PS produced more errors overall compared to GS. It seems that GS passed the level of automatic use of the most prominent response, whereas PS use the dominant responses as default spelling. In the last study, the emphasis was on GS and PS in French after two years of instruction in grade 4. GS and PS were re-classified to new groups according to their spelling performance in French. GS in French used more French specific phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences in a nonword dictation than PS. PS in French used more German phoneme-to-grapheme correspondences in the French and German nonword dictation. It seems that PS in French rely more on the phoneme-grapheme correspondences of the first acquired and thus dominant language (German). In the general discussion, the previously presented results are summarized and a theoretical model of bilingual spelling is proposed.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Leybaert, Jacqueline; Bodé, Sylvie; Reitsma, Pieter; De Coster, Veerle-Lotta; Kolinsky, Régine; Mousty, Philippe

School:Université libre de Bruxelles

School Location:Belgium

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:multilingualism reading acquisition


Date of Publication:09/23/2008

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.