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A review of the impact of bilingualism on the development of phonemic awareness skills in children with typical speech development
Easy Access Summary
A review of the impact of bilingualism on the development of phonemic awareness skills in children with typical speech development.
The number of children who are exposed to more than one language in their home in the UK is increasing and it is important to understand the impact that speaking and learning more than one language (bilingualism) can have on a child. This article discusses what is known about the impact of bilingualism on children’s phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and use individual speech sounds.
The article describes a systematic review of studies that have investigated bilingual children’s phonemic awareness skills and compared them to children who only speak one language. Thirteen studies were included in the review. The studies were different in terms of the languages that they investigated and the exposure of children to one or both languages. The most common bilingual group of children that were investigated in studies were Spanish-English bilingual children.
There was a degree of inconsistency in the findings of studies in that some studies showed no difference between bilingual and monolingual performance on phoneme awareness tasks, where as other studies showed bilingual children performed better on phoneme awareness tasks compared to monolingual children. Children’s performance on phonemic awareness tasks was influenced by the characteristics of the languages they spoke and used in school. Together the studies indicate that bilingual children speaking certain combinations of languages, such as Spanish and English, were better at speech sound awareness tasks at a younger age compared to monolingual children.
This review investigated what is known about the impact of bilingualism on children’s phonemic awareness. Studies of bilingual children where one language was English were identified via searching electronic databases and bibliographies from the last 50 years. Thirteen studies were analysed thematically and summarised in terms of methods and key findings.
Findings suggest a variable pattern of performance with some studies showing no difference between bilingual and monolingual performance on tasks. However there was also evidence for advanced acquisition of phonemic awareness skills in some bilingual children, mediated by characteristics of languages spoken.