Individual differences in foreign language attainment of children with poor literacy skills
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:23 authored by Alexa Von Hagen
A common belief in many educational contexts is that students with poor literacy skills are worse at learning foreign languages than their peers with typical literacy skills. Past research confirms this concern. However, this evidence is almost entirely based on group studies, which average highly variable performance of individual children. A systematic investigation of individual differences in the foreign language attainment of children with poor literacy skills is currently missing. The present project aimed to fill this gap. The first chapter is a systematic review and meta-analysis of the available evidence on this topic. The second chapter investigated to what extent results of group comparisons between children with poor and typical literacy skills are representative of the individual foreign language performance of poor readers/spellers. The third chapter explores potential sources of this variability, with a focus on native language skills. Finally, in the fourth chapter, foreign language word knowledge is examined as a function of task complexity and word characteristics. In summary, this project deepens our understanding of individual differences in foreign language attainment of children with poor literacy skills. Our findings reveal that the common belief that children with poor literacy skills are worse at learning foreign languages than their classmates with average literacy skills, does not hold for every child with poor literacy skills. Even when foreign language learning difficulties emerge, the subskills in which poor readers/spellers struggle are quite diverse. The extent to which these foreign language deficits are associated with equivalent native language deficits seems to vary across subskills. Overall, the results of this project provide new insights to guide parents and teachers in making evidence-based decisions on the foreign language education of children with poor literacy skills.