In order to compare foreign and native learners of Chinese on metalinguistic correlates of word reading in both Chinese and English, we tested 102 third and fourth graders from an English-Chinese bilingual school in Hong Kong. Children were grouped based on their mother’s first language being either Chinese or non-Chinese (primarily alphabetic) and tested on a range of reading related tasks in both Chinese and English. The two groups, native Chinese speaking group (62 children, Mean age: 99.23 months, SD: 7.39 months) and non-native Chinese speaking group (40 children, Mean age: 97.18 months, SD: 7.78 months) performed equally well on most of the English reading related tasks except for English vocabulary and English phonological working memory, in which tasks the non-native Chinese group showed advantages. However, the non-native Chinese speaking group lagged behind the native Chinese group on most Chinese reading related tasks including word reading, vocabulary knowledge, working memory, rapid automatized naming, lexical tone awareness and Chinese orthographic skills, even after the age and nonverbal reasoning were statistically controlled for, although the two groups didn’t differ on their Chinese phonological awareness skills at syllable, onset-rime and phoneme levels and pure visual skills. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that the unique correlates of Chinese word reading for both groups were Chinese vocabulary knowledge, Chinese working memory, lexical tone awareness, and visual-orthographic skills. For the non-Chinese group only, pure visual skills were also unique correlates of Chinese word reading skills. In comparison, similar analysis showed that the unique correlates of English word reading for both groups were English vocabulary, English phonological awareness. However, while visual skills have positive contribution to English word reading for the native Chinese speaking children, it contributed to English word reading negatively for the non-native Chinese children. Taken together, the results showed that oral language and phonological skills are important for learning both languages. However while visual and visual orthographic skills are important for learning to reading Chinese as both a first and second language, it was not the same for English word reading. Only native Chinese speaking children apply visual skills in learning to read English.
|Publication status||Published - 2012|