, Volume 23, Issue 3-4, pp 293-310
Date: 07 Oct 2009

Chinese-English biscriptal reading: cognitive component skills across orthographies

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Abstract

This study examined the associations of Chinese visual-orthographic skills, phonological awareness, and morphological awareness to Chinese and English word reading among 326 Hong Kong Chinese second- and fifth-graders learning English as a second language. Developmentally, tasks of visual-orthographic skill, phonological awareness, and morphological awareness improved with age. However, the extent to which each of the constructs explained variance in Chinese and English word reading was stable across age but differed by orthography. Across grades, visual-orthographic skills and morphological awareness, but not phonological awareness, were uniquely associated with Chinese character recognition with age and nonverbal IQ statistically controlled. In contrast, Chinese visual-orthographic skills and phonological awareness, but not morphological awareness, accounted for unique variance in English word reading even with the effects of Chinese character recognition and other reading-related cognitive tasks statistically controlled. Thus, only visual-orthographic skills appeared to be a consistent factor in explaining both Chinese and English word reading, perhaps in part because Hong Kong Chinese children are taught in school to read both Chinese and English using a “look and say” strategy that emphasizes visual analysis for word recognition. These findings extend previous research on Chinese visual-orthographic skills to English word reading and underscore commonality and uniqueness in bilingual reading acquisition.