The role of receptive vocabulary in listening comprehension of Italian-English bilingual children

The role of receptive vocabulary in listening comprehension of Italian-English bilingual children

First Author: Raffaele Dicataldo -- Università degli studi di padova
Additional authors/chairs: 
Elena Florit ; Maja Roch
Abstract / Summary: 

Vocabulary is a key component of text comprehension and represents the weakest language dimension for bilingual children (Geva & Farnia, 2011). The relation between vocabulary and listening comprehension has been analyzed in monolingual but not in bilingual pre-readers. This study aimed at examining: a) bilinguals’ listening comprehension and receptive vocabulary in L1 (Italian) and L2 (English); b) the contribution of vocabulary in L1 and L2 to listening comprehension in each language.

Participants were 62 Italian-English sequential bilinguals, divided in two groups: “younger” (N=30;mean age 5;5) and “older” (N=32;mean age 6;6). Children vocabulary and listening comprehension were assessed using PPVT-R and Tor 3-8 (Levorato & Roch, 2007) in both languages.

Aim a) Results of two ANOVAs (Languages/Groups) on listening comprehension and vocabulary showed that: Listening comprehension was appropriate for age in both languages but higher in L1 with no difference between groups; higher performance in L1 than L2 vocabulary with younger children showing a low vocabulary in L2 than older ones. Aim b) Two regressions performed on listening comprehension in each language showed that only vocabulary in the same language accounted for listening comprehension.
Sequential bilinguals obtain higher performance in L1, however after few years of L2’s exposure, language skills fall within the normal range, with some weakness in vocabulary. Moreover the contribution of vocabulary to listening comprehension is similar in both languages and specific for each.

These results contribute to clarify how core oral language skills may promote higher-level comprehension processes in children acquiring more than one language (Babayigit, 2012).