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See detailDeveloping oral language skills in language-minority children
Cordeiro Tomas, Rute Carina UL

Doctoral thesis (2018)

The aim of the research presented in this thesis is two-fold. Firstly, it explores the early oral language development in Portuguese-speaking language-minority children growing up in Luxembourg in the ... [more ▼]

The aim of the research presented in this thesis is two-fold. Firstly, it explores the early oral language development in Portuguese-speaking language-minority children growing up in Luxembourg in the kindergarten years. Secondly, it purports to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a 30-week oral language intervention programme designed to support the home language development in language-minority children, using a randomised controlled study design. The study specifically examines the hypothesis that skills acquired in a first language can transfer to a second language. The study adopts a longitudinal experimental design and includes a sample of 186 Portuguese-speaking kindergarten children in Luxembourg. Children were randomly allocated to a Portuguese oral language group (N = 93) or an active control group (N = 93). Participants were followed longitudinally and assessed on four occasions over a period of two years. The study also included two peer comparison groups: one classroom peer group from Luxembourg (N = 75) and one age-matched group of monolingual children from Portugal (N = 44). The first key research question addressed was: What are the early oral language skills in Portuguese and Luxembourgish within this group of bilingual language-minority children, and how do these skills develop during the kindergarten years? Results indicate that when compared to their peers in both languages, these children lagged behind. Despite manifesting language growth in Luxembourgish, the language-minority group continued to score below their classroom peers at the end of kindergarten. Findings further suggest that the home language skills of these children are not only less developed at school entry, but are also growing at a slower rate in contrast to the school language. Overall, results raise the possibility that Portuguese-speaking children in Luxembourg might be at risk of acquiring their second language at the expense of their first language. It is clear that these children are in need of targeted language support, not only in their school language but also their home language. The second major research question addressed was: Can an intervention focusing on language-minority children’s home language effectively support their home language development, and might this have knock on effects on second language learning? Results of the randomised controlled trial demonstrate that the newly developed oral language intervention MOLLY successfully improved children’s home language skills. Additionally, the results showed that supporting children in their home language facilitated second language learning. Effect sizes of important educational significance were found on both primary and secondary outcomes in Portuguese and in Luxembourgish. This thesis clearly reinforces that it is possible to effectively support language-minority children’s home language through rich and regular language support in a school setting, without hindering the development of the school language. Findings suggest that supporting children in their home language can facilitate second language learning. This study takes a step forward towards providing robust evidence on what the appropriate conditions are in supporting language-minority children’s language development. [less ▲]

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