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Metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Performance: A Cross Language Comparison

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The study examined two questions: (1) do the greater phonological awareness skills of billinguals affect reading performance; (2) to what extent do the orthographic characteristics of a language influence reading performance and how does this interact with the effects of phonological awareness. We estimated phonological metalinguistic abilities and reading measures in three groups of first graders: monolingual Hebrew speakers, bilingual Russian–Hebrew speakers, and Arabic-speaking children. We found that language experience affects phonological awareness, as both Russian–Hebrew bilinguals and the Arabic speakers achieved higher scores on metalinguistic tests than Hebrew speakers. Orthography affected reading measures and their correlation with phonological abilitites. Children reading Hebrew showed better text reading ability and significant correlations between phonological awareness and reading scores. Children reading Arabic showed a slight advantage in single word and nonword reading over the two Hebrew reading groups, and very weak relationships between phonological abilities and reading performance. We conclude that native Arabic speakers have more difficulty in processing Arabic orthography than Hebrew monolinguals and bilinguals have in processing Hebrew orthography, and suggest that this is due to the additional visual complexity of Arabic orthography.

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Correspondence to Raphiq Ibrahim.

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Ibrahim, R., Eviatar, Z. & Aharon-Peretz, J. Metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Performance: A Cross Language Comparison. J Psycholinguist Res 36, 297–317 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-006-9046-3

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  • Metalinguistic abilities
  • Orthography
  • Bilingualism
  • Monolingual Hebrew speakers
  • Russian–Hebrew speakers
  • Arabic speakers