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Adult first-time readers in a second language
Martha Young-Scholten
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We now turn to whether there a critical period exists for reading, and address this through a comparison of adults with little or no schooling with children (tests and scores from Karmiloff-Smith et al. 1996 for word awareness and Burt et al. 1999 for the rest). The figure below shows common patterns for pre-school and school-age children and the 17 adults. Onset and rhyme pattern differently depending on age, and onset and rhyme awareness slightly exceeds syllable awareness for Somalis, but both adults’ and childrens’ word awareness invariably exceeds syllable/onset and rhyme awareness, and both exceed phonemic awareness.

Fig 1

What correlations exist between linguistic proficiency, reading level and phonological awareness?

There was a highly significant (p <.01) positive correlation between phonemic awareness and word reading, and a significant (p < .05) positive correlation between rhyme-onset awareness and word reading. Tested through picture naming, phonological competence scores were calculated as percentages of learners’ production of initial and final consonant clusters.(1) Morpho-syntactic competence was scored on a scale of 1-5 using criteria in Table 2. Stages reflect research carried out over the last 30 years revealing a uniform order of acquisition of verb-related inflectional morphology in L2 English independent of age, exposure type and generally, the learner’s NL (Hawkins 2001).

(1)The test of segmental competence yielded unrealiable results due to learners’ meagre lexicon not allowing determination of relevant English contrasts.

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