Original Research

Phonological awareness and speech perception: Skills of Grade 1 English second language learners

Casey J. Eslick, Mia le Roux, Salome Geertsema, Lidia Pottas
Reading & Writing | Vol 11, No 1 | a263 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v11i1.263 | © 2020 Casey J. Eslick, Mia le Roux, Salome Geertsema, Lidia Pottas | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 September 2019 | Published: 27 May 2020

About the author(s)

Casey J. Eslick, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mia le Roux, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Salome Geertsema, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Lidia Pottas, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Literacy achievement of learners is a concern in many developing countries, particularly for English second language (EL2) learners with inadequate language development. It is important to investigate foundational phonological awareness (PA), as well as speech perception skills to guide the development of effective intervention for EL2 learners to facilitate optimal literacy acquisition.

Objectives: The study aimed to describe the PA and speech perception in noise skills of South African Grade 1, EL2 participants, learning in an English first language (EL1) context, to inform evidence-based support during literacy acquisition for EL2 learners.

Method: A cross-sectional, descriptive design was employed. Twenty-five EL1 participants provided normative results for the Phonological Awareness Test – 2 and South African English Digits-in-Noise Test, enabling between-group comparisons with 25 matched EL2 participants for quantitative data analysis. Demographic and background information was obtained using parental questionnaires.

Results: The EL2 learners presented with PA skills below those of EL1 learners in all subtests. Though the speech perception in noise skills of EL2 learners were within the normative range for their age, their skills are also lower in comparison to EL1 learners.

Conclusion: The findings support the inclusion of explicit PA instruction for rhyming, segmentation, isolation, deletion, substitution, and blending for EL2 literacy acquisition. Developing speech perception in noise skills is necessary to facilitate PA and phoneme-grapheme knowledge. This can enable decoding for early EL2 literacy acquisition.


Keywords

language of instruction; literacy; multilingualism; phonological awareness; second language; speech perception.

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