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Predicting risk for oral and written language learning difficulties in students educated in a second language


The extent to which risk for French as a second language (L2) reading and language learning impairment are distinct and can be predicted using first language (L1) predictors was examined in English-speaking students in total French immersion programs. A total of 86 children were tested in fall of kindergarten, spring kindergarten, and spring Grade 1 using an extensive battery of L1 predictor tests (in kindergarten) and L2 outcome tests (in Grade 1). Analyses of the kindergarten predictor scores revealed distinct underlying components, one related to reading and one to oral language. Further analyses revealed that phonological awareness, phonological access, and letter-sound knowledge in L1 were significant predictors of risk for reading difficulties in L2 while performance on L1 sentence repetition, phonological awareness, and tense marking tests in kindergarten were the best predictors of risk for L1 and L2 oral language difficulties. Both fall- and spring-kindergarten predictors predicted Grade 1 outcomes to a significant extent, with the spring-kindergarten predictors being more accurate. These results provide support for distinctive risk profiles for L2 oral language and reading difficulty and, furthermore, argue that assessment of L1 abilities can be used to make reasonably accurate predictions of later reading and/or oral language learning difficulties in L2 students.

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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE: Caroline Erdos, McGill University Health Center, Montreal Children's Hospital, Department of Speech–Language Pathology, Room A-424, 2300 Tupper, Montreal, QC H3H IP3, Canada. E-mail:
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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