Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Effects of English Phonological Awareness Training on Chinese Child EFL Learners' Literacy Development

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Effects of English Phonological Awareness Training on Chinese Child EFL Learners' Literacy Development

Article excerpt

Abstract

Phonological awareness (PA) instruction has been attached great importance in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) research due to the observed significance of PA in the development of English literacy. But studies on Chinese child EFL learners' English PA training and its long-term effects are sparse, and research on its effects on children's English literacy development is even less. The present study is a longitudinal study following an English PA training program, aiming to investigate the long-term effect of the training on young English learners' subsequent literacy acquisition in China.

Eighty students from two intact classes in Grade One of a primary school participated in the study. Among them, forty four children in the treatment group received 10 weeks' PA training, while the rest thirty six children in the control group did not. Tests were conducted on all participants at two time points - 6 months and 12 months after the training respectively. Both tests examined participants' early English reading and spelling. And Test 2 investigated the participants' reading comprehension and PA as well. The following are the major findings: Firstly, there is long-term training effect on participants' literacy acquisition. The treatment group performed better on every literacy sub-skill test than the control group in tests conducted 6 months and 12 months after the training, showing significantly better performance on early English reading and spelling than the control group. Secondly, PA is closely related with English literacy skills, and the initial phoneme deletion is likely the most powerful predictor of children's early English reading and spelling.

Key Words: Chinese child EFL learners; Phonological awareness; English literacy

INTRODUCTION

Phonological awareness (PA) refers to the ability to perceive and manipulate the sounds of spoken words (Mattingly, 1972). It is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words and the understanding of different ways in which oral language can be divided into smaller components and manipulated (Wagner et al, 1997). Significant correlation between early PA and subsequent reading and spelling skills has been demonstrated in many studies (e.g., Bryant et al, 1990; Caravolas et al, 2001; Silva & Alves-Martins, 2002; Gillon, 2004).

Dickinson and Neumann (2006) assert that early childhood literacy is the best investment for facilitating the growth needed for a lifetime of success. In a narrow sense, the acquisition of literacy can be defined as acquiring the ability to both comprehend and produce written text (Juel et al, 1986). Of the two major components of English reading process - word identification and comprehension - the first involves learning to convert the letters into recognizable words and the second involves accessing the meaning of the unit (Hoover & Gough, 1990; National Reading Panel, 2000). Accurate and fluent identification of words is therefore a necessary precursor to good comprehension, for this may result in less involvement of cognitive resources in lexical retrieval and lead to allocation of cognitive resources to higher level reading comprehension (Perfetti, 2007). Spelling is the process of converting oral language to visual form by placing graphic symbols on some writing surface and spellers need to map accurately and rapidly the connection between phonemes and sub-lexical segments to graphemes (Goswani & Bryant, 1990). The English writing system is alphabetic in structure, with graphemes or graphic characters representing speech sounds and English spelling system reflects a greater degree of regularity (Wood & Connelly, 2009). The idea that phonology is the main influence on early spelling has gained support from a range of studies in English, in other alphabetic orthographies, and in non alphabetic languages (e.g. Treiman, 1993; Varnhargen et al, 1997, Bryant et al, 1999; Sprenger-Charolles et al, 2003; Abu-Rabia & Taha, 2006). …

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