Label versus concept knowledge among elementary-age students from Spanish-speaking homes

Label versus concept knowledge among elementary-age students from Spanish-speaking homes

First Author: Min Hyun Oh -- Vanderbilt University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Laura Buckley; Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez
Keywords: Bilingualism, Concept Of Word, English Language Learners (ELL), Word Learning, Reading comprehension
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Total scoring of bilinguals’ vocabulary—crediting labels across two languages for the same concept (e.g., dog and perro)—has utility during the early childhood years. This study extends research in this area by examining Spanish-speaking elementary-aged students’ vocabulary in both Spanish and English, Spanish-only, and English-only.

Method: Participants (N = 59) were second (n = 33) and fourth (n = 26) grade Spanish-speaking students attending an English-only school district in the Southeast U.S. The Receptive and Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-4: Spanish-Bilingual Edition (2013a, 2013b) were administered with long administration protocol, prompting both languages for every item (180 for each test) from item 1. We examined items for which at least half of the students responded—which narrowed the analyses to 126 receptive and 111 expressive items—across two categories: basic (used in everyday contexts; 58 receptive and 81 expressive items) and academic (used in formal contexts; 68 receptive and 30 expressive items).

Results: Students demonstrated greater knowledge receptively than expressively. Receptively, students identified 82% of basic and 47% of academic vocabulary in both languages. Expressively, students identified 47% of basic and 10% of academic vocabulary in both languages. When correct in only one, a higher portion of concepts was in English than Spanish for both domains.

Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest students tend to know: a) labels for basic concepts in both languages, but are more likely to know academic concept labels only in English and b) more English labels for single-language knowledge. Findings provide insight into bilingual language development, with implications for both theory and practice.

Martin, N. (2013a). Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test, Spanish-Bilingual Edition.
Martin, N. (2013b). Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test, Spanish-Bilingual Edition.