Original Research

Word recognition strategies amongst isiXhosa/English bilingual learners: The interaction of orthography and language of learning and teaching

Tracy Probert, Mark de Vos
Reading & Writing | Vol 7, No 1 | a84 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v7i1.84 | © 2016 Tracy Probert, Mark de Vos | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 April 2015 | Published: 27 May 2016

About the author(s)

Tracy Probert, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, South Africa
Mark de Vos, Department of English Language and Linguistics, Rhodes University, South Africa


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Abstract

Word recognition is a major component of fluent reading and involves an interaction of language structure, orthography, and metalinguistic skills. This study examined reading strategies in isiXhosa and the transfer of these strategies to an additional language, English. IsiXhosa was chosen because of its agglutinative structure and conjunctive orthography. Data was collected at two schools which differed with regards to their language of learning and teaching (LoLT) in the first three years of schooling: isiXhosa and English respectively. Participants completed a wordand pseudo-word reading aloud task in each of two languages which hypothetically impose different cognitive demands. Skills transfer occurs to a limited extent when the language of first literacy uses a transparent orthography, but is less predictable when the language of first literacy uses an opaque orthography. We show that although there is transfer of word recognition strategies from transparent to deep orthographies, felicitous transfer is limited to sublexical strategies; infelicitous transfer also occurs when lexical strategies are transferred in problematic ways. The results support the contention that reading strategies and cognitive skills are fine tuned to particular languages. This study emphasises that literacies in different languages present readers with different structural puzzles which require language-particular suites of cognitive reading skills.

 

Keywords: Foundation phase education; multilingual education; reading; word recognition; automaticity; isiXhosa reading


Keywords

Foundation phase education; multilingual education; reading; word recognition; automaticity; isiXhosa reading

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