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Learning nonnative names: The effect of poor native phonological awareness



This research investigates the influence of phonological awareness on the learning of vocabulary in a foreign language. Thirty-seven Chinese-speaking third graders with high phonological awareness and 37 with low phonological awareness participated in multitrial word learning tasks involving nonnative sounding (English) new names paired with novel referents. The children also participated in three additional associative learning tasks: learning to associate novel native sounding names, familiar native names, and unfamiliar visual shapes with unfamiliar referents. Results indicated that children with lower phonological awareness learned both the novel nonnative names and the novel native names less accurately than children with higher phonological awareness and required more learning trials. However, these two groups did not differ in learning to associate familiar names or unfamiliar visual shapes with novel referents. The findings suggest that poor phonological awareness might slow nonnative acquisition of vocabulary via difficulty in constructing new phonological representations for new words.


Corresponding author

Chieh-Fang Hu, Department of English Instruction, Taipei Municipal Teachers College, No. 1 Ai-Kui West Road, Taipei, Taiwan. E-mail:


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Learning nonnative names: The effect of poor native phonological awareness



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