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Research Article

Reading Development in two Alphabetic Systems Differing in Orthographic Consistency: A longitudinal study of French-speaking children enrolled in a Dutch immersion program

Authors:

Katia Lecocq ,

Laboratoire Cognition, Langage et Développement, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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Régine Kolinsky,

Unité de Recherche en Neurosciences Cognitives, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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Vincent Goetry,

Laboratoire Cognition, Langage et Développement, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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José Morais,

Unité de Recherche en Neurosciences Cognitives, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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Jesus Alegria,

Laboratoire Cognition, Langage et Développement, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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Philippe Mousty

Laboratoire Cognition, Langage et Développement, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE
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Abstract

Studies examining reading development in bilinguals have led to conflicting conclusions regarding the language in which reading development should take place first. Whereas some studies suggest that reading instruction should take place in the most proficient language first, other studies suggest that reading acquisition should take place in the most consistent orthographic system first.

The present study examined two research questions: (1) the relative impact of oral proficiency and orthographic transparency in second-language reading acquisition, and (2) the influence of reading acquisition in one language on the development of reading skills in the other language.

To examine these questions, we compared reading development in French-native children attending a Dutch immersion program and learning to read either in Dutch first (most consistent orthography) or in French first (least consistent orthography but native language). Following a longitudinal design, the data were gathered over different sessions spanning from Grade 1 to Grade 3. The children in immersion were presented with a series of experimental and standardised tasks examining their levels of oral proficiency as well as their reading abilities in their first and, subsequently in their second, languages of reading instruction. Their performances were compared to the ones of French and Dutch monolinguals.

The results showed that by the end of Grade 2, the children instructed to read in Dutch first read in both languages as well as their monolingual peers. In contrast, the children instructed to read in French first lagged behind the other Dutch-speaking groups in Dutch reading tasks.

These findings extend the notion that differences across languages in terms of orthographic transparency impact on reading development to the French-Dutch pair, and strongly support the view that there are potentially significant benefits to learn to read in the most consistent orthographic system first, even though it is the least proficient language, since it boosts phonological processes and improves subsequent reading acquisition in both languages.
How to Cite: Lecocq, K. et al., (2009). Reading Development in two Alphabetic Systems Differing in Orthographic Consistency: A longitudinal study of French-speaking children enrolled in a Dutch immersion program. Psychologica Belgica. 49(2-3), pp.111–156. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/pb-49-2-3-111
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Published on 01 Jun 2009.
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