Accumulated research has shown that children’s oral vocabulary status is closely linked with their grammar development in the early years and their future reading success in English. Alarmingly, a large vocabulary gap was noted in learners across socio-economic groups in the US prior to their entry to kindergarten, giving rise to the possibility of the Matthew Effects on learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. In Hong Kong, importance is attached to early English exposure, but the quantity and quality of English language input varies widely across kindergartens in the territory. Children from low-income families may be disadvantaged twice because of their restricted access to high quality English language input both at home and at school. This study sought to examine the English vocabulary status of two groups of 4-year-old kindergarteners: those attending kindergartens serving low-income families and those attending schools serving high income groups. The children were administered the following tests twice over a six-month period: Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Reynell Developmental Language Scale-Cantonese, and a non-verbal IQ test. The purpose was to examine 1) the initial differences in English vocabulary status across learners of varying SES; 2) the changes in their vocabulary status overtime; and 3) the relationship between first language (L1) proficiency and second language (L2) vocabulary. Results showed that the average vocabulary status of this small sample of low SES children was three S.D. below that of high SES children. Second, no relationship was found between L1 proficiency and L2 vocabulary status perhaps due to the typological differences between the two studied languages.
|Publication status||Published - 2011|