Dual-language learner (DLL) children typically learn to write while still learning English, with vocabulary appearing to be a particularly vulnerable domain. This study investigates how a reduced English lexicon impacts English writing in DLL children. Participants were 100 Spanish-speaking DLLs and 100 of their monolingual classmates in first through fourth grades. Children were administered standardized tests of decoding and vocabulary and a written narrative task. Narratives were analyzed for productivity, complexity, and accuracy. DLL children performed comparably to monolingual children on productivity and complexity measures. However, they differed in measures of orthographic, lexical, and morphological accuracy. They also differed in vocabulary scores. When controlling for differences in vocabulary, no differences between the DLL and monolingual groups in accuracy were found. In addition, the DLL children used a greater proportion of literate language features in their texts than the monolinguals did. The results suggest that improving DLL children’s vocabulary would improve their writing in multiple areas. The possibility of a DLL advantage in literate language is addressed in the context of the children’s need to regularly switch between their home and school languages.
Reading and Writing – Springer Journals
Published: May 18, 2016
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