Good grasp of native language may improve English skills

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New York, Aug 18 (IANS) Pre-schoolers experience significant improvements in their English skills when they have a good grasp of their mother-tongue or native language, according to a new study.

Building on native language skills like the Spanish language appeared to improve English proficiency during preschool, thereby maximising their ability to enter school ready to learn.

“Spanish-speaking children who enter pre-school with limited English proficiency rely on the classroom setting to build their English skills. There is evidence that early reading and math skills learned in Spanish can support the learning of those skills in English,” said Francisco Palermo, Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri, in a statement.

For his research, Palermo examined the associations between skills that pre-school-aged children already possessed in Spanish, understanding the alphabet and identifying numbers, and their gains in those English skills over the course of the school year.

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Children were assessed on their vocabulary, letter and math abilities in the fall and again in the spring. The assessments were conducted in both English and Spanish to study associations between skillsets with set controls to account for gender, parent education and children’s cognitive abilities.

Looking at the assessments, Palermo found that pre-schoolers who had strong letter and math abilities in Spanish experienced gains in those English skills.

“Even if parents can’t speak English or know very little English, they can foster English learning by reading to their children and by talking about and doing math in Spanish. Doing so will greatly improve the child’s ability to keep up in an English classroom setting,” added Palermo.

Adding to this, Palermo found that enhanced behaviour regulation abilities, which parents can model and teach children, appeared to increase children’s likelihood of exhibiting vocabulary and literacy skills in English and Spanish by the end of pre-school versus exhibiting them mostly in Spanish.

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