Languages (Feb 2021)

Phonological Awareness across Child Populations: How Bilingualism and Dyslexia Interact

  • Maria Vender,
  • Chiara Melloni

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6, no. 1
p. 39


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Phonological awareness is a complex and multifaceted skill which plays an essential role in the development of an individual’s language and literacy abilities. Phonological skills are indeed dramatically impaired in people with dyslexia, at any age and across languages, whereas their development in bilinguals is less clear. In addition, the interaction between bilingualism and dyslexia in this domain is still under-investigated. The aim of this paper is to provide new experimental evidence on this topic by exploring the phonological competence in Italian of monolingual and bilingual children with and without dyslexia. To this purpose, we developed three tasks, assessing nonword repetition, rhyme detection and spoonerisms, which we administered to 148 10-year-old children in two distinct studies. In Study 1, we found that two groups of L2 Italian typically developing bilinguals, having either Arabic or Romanian as L1, performed similarly to Italian monolinguals in all measures, pointing to absence of both bilingualism-related and L1-related effects in these tasks. In Study 2, we administered the same tasks to four groups of children: Italian monolinguals with dyslexia, Italian monolingual typically developing children, L2 Italian bilinguals with dyslexia and L2 Italian bilingual typically developing children. Results showed that children with dyslexia, both monolingual and bilingual, exhibited significantly more difficulties than typically developing children in all three tasks, whereas bilinguals, consistent with Study 1, performed similarly to their monolingual peers. In addition, no negative effects of bilingualism in dyslexia were found, indicating that being bilingual does not provide additional difficulties to children with dyslexia.