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Bilingual Children’s Phonological Awareness: The Effect of Articulation Training

Keywords: Phonological Awareness , Phonology , Language Development , Bilingualism , Children

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Abstract:

This study aims to investigate whether unbalanced Chinese-English bilingual children’s phonological awareness skills are limited to language experience, and whether these skills are improved after a short period of articulation training with L2 (English) tongue twisters. Sixty kindergarten children in Taipei whose English proficiency was lower than their mother tongue, Chinese, participated in a series of tests. They were divided into two age groups with an average age of 5;3 and 6;3 respectively. An English proficiency test was first administrated to understand these children’s command of English. Then, phonological awareness pre-tests in Chinese and English were used to tap these children’s phonological awareness in both languages. Tests include onset/ rhyme detection test, onset deletion test, and onset/ rhyme substitution tests. Based on the causal link between articulation and phonological awareness, an English articulation training was given to the experimental group of children after the pre-tests, to examine whether enhanced English phonological awareness skills transfer to Chinese. Results showed that phonological awareness acquired in L1 were also found in L2. A period of articulation training in English led to an improvement of these children’s performances in both English and Chinese, which implies a backward transfer from weaker L2 to stronger L1. Cross-language transfers in phonological awareness abilities also imply that an abstract underlying capacity facilitates language processing across languages.

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