Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Cross-language associations and changes in Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ English and Spanish academic abilities


We examined the cross-language relations among Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ (N = 125; M age = 53 months, SD = 4.58) English and Spanish vocabulary, letter–word, and math skills; the changes they exhibited in those skills during 1 year of preschool; and the extent to which Spanish skills were associated with English skill gains. The results revealed that children's Spanish and English vocabulary skills were unassociated across languages, whereas their letter–word and math skills were positively associated. Children exhibited gains in vocabulary, letter–word, and math skills in English, with letter–word and math skills in Spanish at the start of preschool being positively associated with the development of those skills in English. Children also gained math skills in Spanish. However, their Spanish vocabulary and letter–word skills did not appear to change. Vocabulary skills showed positive within-language relations with children's letter–word and math skills. The findings highlight cross-language linkages between Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ academic skills in English and Spanish and how Spanish skills associate with their English academic readiness.

Corresponding author
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Francisco Palermo, University of Missouri, 314 Gentry Hall, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. Abedi , & C. Lord (2001). The language factor in mathematics tests. Applied Measurement in Education, 14, 219234. doi:10.1207/S15324818AME1403_2

K. Alexander , D. Entwisle , & N. Kabbani (2001). The dropout process in life course perspective: Early risk factors at home and school. Teachers College Record, 103, 760822. doi:10.1111/0161-4681.00134

D. August , M. Carlo , C. Dressler , & C. Snow (2005). The critical role of vocabulary development for English language learners. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20, 5057. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2005.00120.x

K. Aunola , E. Leskinen , M.-K. Lerkkanen , & J.-E. Nurmi (2004). Developmental dynamics of math performance from preschool to Grade 2. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 699713. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.96.4.699

W. S. Barnett , D. J. Yarosz , J. Thomas , K. Jung , & D. Blanco (2007). Two-way and monolingual English immersion in preschool education: An experimental comparison. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 22, 277293. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2007.03.003

E. Bialystok , G. Luk , & E. Kwan (2005). Bilingualism, biliteracy, and learning to read: Interactions among languages and writing systems. Scientific Studies of Reading, 9, 4361. doi:10.1207/s1532799xssr0901_4

J. F. Carlisle , M. Beeman , L. H. Davis , & G. Spharim (1999). Relationship of metalinguistic capabilities and reading achievement for children who are becoming bilingual. Applied Psycholinguistics, 20, 459478.

M. S. Carlo , D. August , B. Mclaughlin , C. E. Snow , C. Dressler , D. N. Lippman , et al. (2004). Closing the gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English-language learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 188215.

A. P. Castilla , M. A. Restrepo , & A. T. Perez-Leroux (2009). Individual differences and language interdependence: A study of sequential bilingual development in Spanish–English preschool children. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12, 565580. doi:10. 1080/13670050802357795

R. Chesterfield , K. Hayes-Latimer , K. B. Chesterfield , & R. Chavez (1983). The influence of teachers and peers on second language acquisition in bilingual preschool programs. TESOL Quarterly, 17, 401419.

J. Cohen (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

J. Cummins (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222251. doi:10.3102/00346543049002222

D. K. Dickinson , A. McCabe , N. Clark-Chiarelli , & A. Wolf (2004). Cross-language transfer of phonological awareness in low-income Spanish and English bilingual preschool children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 323347. doi:10.1017/S0142716404001158

G. J. Duncan , C. J. Dowsett , A. Claessens , K. Magnuson , A. C. Huston , P. Klebanov , et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 14281446. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.43.6.1428

A. Y. Durgunoğlu , W. E. Nagy , & B. J. Hancin-Bhatt (1993). Cross-language transfer of phonological awareness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 453465. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.85.3. 453

C. K. Enders (2011). Analyzing longitudinal data with missing values. Rehabilitation Psychology, 56, 267288. doi:10.1037/a0025579

D. J. Francis , M. Rivera , N. Lesaux , M. Kieffer , & H. Rivera (2006). Practical guidelines for the education of English language learners: Research-based recommendations for instruction and academic interventions. Portsmouth, NH: Center on Instruction. Retrieved from

T. Halle , E. Hair , L. Wandner , M. McNamara , & N. Chien (2012). Predictors and outcomes of early versus later English language proficiency among English language learners. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 27, 120. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2011.07.004

C. E. Hamilton , M. A. Restrepo , S. M. Neuharth-Pritchett , & P. J. Schwanenflugel (n.d.). PAVEd for success Inventario de la lectura y escritura en casa [Inventory of reading and writing in the home]. Unpublished manuscript.

B. Hancin-Bhatt , & W. E. Nagy (1994). Lexical transfer and second language morphological development. Applied Psycholinguistics, 15, 289310.

C. W. Jackson , C. Schatschneider , L. Leacox , C. M. Schuele , & M. D. Davison (2014). Longitudinal analysis of receptive vocabulary growth in young Spanish English-speaking children from migrant families. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 45, 4051. doi:10.1044/2013_LSHSS-12-0104

M. J. Kieffer (2008). Catching up or falling behind? Initial English proficiency, concentrated poverty, and the reading growth of language minority students in the United States. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 851868. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.100.4.851

M. J. Kieffer (2012). Early oral language and later reading development in Spanish-speaking English language learners: Evidence from a nine-year longitudinal study. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33, 146157. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2012.02.003

R. S. Klibanoff , S. C. Levine , J. Huttenlocher , M. Vasilyeva , & L. V. Hedges (2006). Preschool children's mathematical knowledge: The effect of teacher “math talk.” Developmental Psychology, 42, 5969. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.42.1.59

R. B. Kline (1998). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford Press.

J.-A. LeFevre , L. Fast , S.-L. Skwarchuk , B. L. Smith-Chant , J. Bisanz , D. Kamawar , et al. (2010). Pathways to mathematics: Longitudinal predictors of performance. Child Development, 81, 17531767. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01508.x

N. K. Lesaux , M. J. Kieffer , S. E. Faller , & J. G. Kelley (2010). The effectiveness and ease of implementation of an academic vocabulary intervention for linguistically diverse students in urban middle schools. Reading Research Quarterly, 45, 196228. doi:10.1598/RRQ.45. 2.3

K. A. Lindsey , F. R. Manis , & C. E. Bailey (2003). Prediction of first-grade reading in Spanish-speaking English-language learners. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 482494. doi:10. 1037/0022-0663.95.3.482

J. Mancilla-Martinez , & N. K. Lesaux (2011). Early home language use and later vocabulary development. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 535546. doi:10.1037/a0023655

V. A. Marchman , A. Fernald , & N. Hurtado (2010). How vocabulary size in two languages relates to efficiency in spoken word recognition by young Spanish–English bilinguals. Journal of Child Language, 37, 817840. doi:10.1017/S0305000909990055

N. Mather , & R. W. Woodcock (2001). Examiner's manual: Woodcock–Johnson III Tests of Achievement. Itasca, IL: Riverside.

S. K. McGrew , F. A. Scrhank , & W. R. Woodcock (2007). Woodcock–Johnson III normative update. Rolling Meadows, IL: Riverside.

J. A. Naglieri , A. L. Booth , & A. Winsler (2004). Comparison of Hispanic children with and without limited English proficiency on the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test. Psychological Assessment, 16, 8184. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.16.1.81

National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). The condition of education 2010 (Rep. No. NCES 2010-028). Retrieved from

C. L. Ordóñez , M. S. Carlo , C. E. Snow , & B. McLaughlin (2002). Depth and breadth of vocabulary in two languages: Which vocabulary skills transfer? Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 719728. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.94.4.719

M. M. Páez , P. O. Tabors , & L. M. López (2007). Dual language and literacy development of Spanish-speaking preschool children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 85102. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2006.12.007

F. Palermo , A. M. Mikulski , R. A. Fabes , L. D. Hanish , C. L. Martin , & L. E. Stargel (2014). English exposure in the home and classroom: Predictions to Spanish-speaking preschoolers’ English vocabulary skills. Applied Psycholinguistics, 35, 11631187. doi:10.1017/S0142716412000732

E. D. Peña , & T. G. Halle (2011). Assessing preschool dual language learners: Traveling a multiforked road. Child Development Perspectives, 5, 2832. doi:10.1111/j.1750-8606.2010.00143.x

F. Saussure (2011). Nature of the linguistic sign. In W. Baskin (Trans.) & P. Meisel & H. Saussy (Eds.), Course in general linguistics (pp. 6570). New York: Columbia University. (Original work published 1916)

F. A. Schrank , K. S. McGrew , M. L. Ruef , C. G. Alvarado , A. F. Muñoz-Sandoval , & R. W. Woodcock (2005). Overview and technical supplement (Battería III Woodcock–Muñoz assessment service bulletin No. 1). Itasca, IL: Riverside.

US Department of Health and Human Services. (2006). Head Start performance measures center family and child experiences survey (FACES 2000) technical report. Retrieved from

L. T. Verhoeven (1994). Transfer in bilingual development: The linguistic interdependence hypothesis revisited. Language Learning, 44, 381415.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 57 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 253 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.