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Effects of home language input on the vocabulary knowledge of sequential bilingual children


The current study examined whether the vocabulary skills of sequential bilingual children who learned Cantonese as a home language (L1) and English as a second language (L2) were predicted by the amount of L1 and L2 used at home. Ninety-two preschool children who learned Cantonese as L1 were recruited from a Head Start program. The amounts of L1 and L2 used at home were measured using parent questionnaires. Mixed patterns of L1 and L2 use were found across family members and home activities. After controlling for time spent in preschool, regression analyses showed that the amount of L1 and L2 used by individual family members, with the exception of older siblings, was not significantly linked to children's vocabulary skills. In contrast, the language used during some home activities such as dinner and book reading significantly predicted children's vocabulary knowledge. Implications for family involvement in facilitating children's vocabulary development are discussed.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Pui Fong Kan, Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, 2501 Kittredge Loop Road, 409 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
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*Funding for this research was provided by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders R03 DC014059, awarded to Pui Fong Kan and by the Implementation of Multicultural Perspectives and Approaches in Research and Teaching Award (IMPART) from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Additional support was provided by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) at the University of Colorado, awarded to Shirley Cheung. We would like to thank all of the families who participated in this study as well as the staff of Kai Ming Head Start. We are grateful to our research assistants, Michelle Cheung, Niccole Anzivino, Annaliese Miller, and Angela Brickman who have helped with data preparation. Special thanks to FanYin Cheng for translating the questionnaires into Chinese and VoonFee Leow for helping with the later stage of data collection for this project.

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