Applied Psycholinguistics Review

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 6
Words: 1751
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: PhD


The authors of this article discussed how English as a foreign language (EFL) has been longitudinally examined for three times. The study examined the effect of L1 literacy on EFL spelling and the relationship between EFL literacy and EFL spelling. L1 literacy skills were done on fourth grade students. The results revealed that EFL was more important than recognition of English words in giving explanation to the importance of spelling on 9th grade students. The article shows a qualitatively different L1 and EFL literacy abilities. Studies show that there is connection between reading and spelling skills. EFL is used in this study because English is the main language that is used in most studies that are conducted in schools. Most students who come from medium to high socioeconomic backgrounds learn English though media, travelling abroad and with internet. However, it becomes difficult for students who come from the lower levels of the society to learn English. This greatly affects their performance in school. This paper will therefore critically analyze the article and give comments on selected aspects in relation to L1 literacy effects on EFL spelling and the relationship between EFL literacy and EFL spelling.

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Article Summary

According to Sparks et al (2011), spelling and word recognition are lower processes that affect literacy development. These two skills demand the attainment of phonological and later on orthographic features that form words. To gain recognition while spelling, particular orthographic demands exact remembrance and production of actual orthographic representations. Spelling problems are less in orthographic. This is exhibited especially since spelling requires the change of phones to graphemes (Spencer, 2000).

To gain accurate spelling is a long process that requires changes in the process of acquisition of orthographic, phonological and morphological constituents of a given language. The development of spelling involves learning of orthographic skills and knowledge of specific words (Ehri, 2000). Every new rule spelling has to be learned and incorporated into the speller’s general orthographic convention. The study that is presented in this paper undertook a longitudinal observation of the first language (L1) of Hebrew students who learned spelling in English which is a foreign language to them.

The study also examined the connections between linguistic capabilities measured in L1 and EFL spelling development. Different theories have been used in coming up with the connection between literacy acquisition in L1 and additional languages. Linguistic coding differences hypothesis (LCDH) states that L1 skills are the basics for secondary language(L2) and skills in foreign language learning and L1 skills components such as phonological, orthographic, syntactic morphological and semantics are shown in other languages that the student acquires(Shimron & Sparks, 2005).

LCDH is an independence hypothesis which argues that ordinary essential language knowledge will have impact on L1 and L2 academic proficiency even though the languages are different. Central processing theory by Geva states that linguistic abilities are expressed in L1 and other languages development (Geva & Siegel, 2000; Gholamain & Geva, 1999).

A study that was carried out to come up with the connection between L1 predictors of L1 spelling, L1 predictors of L2 spelling and L2 predictors of L2 spelling revealed that there is an important base for the current longitudinal study of the connection between L1 Hebrew knowledge predicators, EFL literacy predictors, and EFL spelling for 9 years. L1 literature study on the other hand revealed that the acquisition of the alphabetic principle an important aspect in the development of spelling. The ability to spell has a direct relationship with the ability to work with the phonemes of the language and the idea that graphemes stand for phonemes.

Evidence acquired from L1 literacy research show that there is connection between reading and spelling skills. There is also a strong correlation between the two skills for opaque orthographies like English L1 and more transparent orthographies like Finnish (Ehri, 2000). L1 research revealed that knowledge on the latter is important for the representation of phonemes by graphemes (Caravolas et al., 2001). Knowing the letter names and sounds usually predicts spelling for L1 English kindergarteners (Spencer, 2000) and for L1 Finnish first graders (Leppanen et al., 2006).

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When the orthography is opaque for spelling and transparent vowel reading like in Hebrew, a weaker connection was found between reading and spelling skills. If the orthographic sharing characteristics for reading and spelling an original orthographical basis for both reading and spelling would account for spelling and reading having an effect on one another.Thus, orthographic representations that were learned while spelling should benefit the other.

Spelling involves reading because it is after encoding a word when the speller can read it (Ehri, 2000). For one to have correct spellings, he or she should have complete orthographic representations in contrast to correct word reading. Orthographic representations that are incomplete lead to inadequate spelling. Findings of this study portrayed that linguistic characteristic of different stages of English L1 spellers characterize EFL spellers to as well as coming up with later spelling. L1 literacy research shows that phonological processing skill is also taken into consideration for L1 spelling development. Phonological processing constitutes phonological recording or word attack skills that are seen as self-teaching mechanism that enables the reader or a speller to develop orthographic knowledge that is based on less trial of grapheme and phoneme (Share, 1995). For EFl and spelling to help each other, direct instruction that aims at English orthographic conventions has to be emphasized for learners to have a broad knowledge with regard to English orthography. This can have positive results in development of EFL reading and spelling.

Ehri (2000) states that a difference between L1 spelling development and the results from the study reveals a strong connection between L1 English spelling and reading and it gives a good foundation to both reading and spelling skills. The relations were found to be weak for EFL reading and spelling. English word recognition that was attained at end of 4th grade contributed to end of 9th grade spelling skills and the English spelling attained at the end of 9th grade contributes to English word recognition in prediction of 12th grade EFL spelling.

Critical Reflections

This study aimed to examine the extent to which components of language were associated with EFL spelling longitudinally during acquisition of spelling in school. It studied the extent to which knowledge of letter sound and letter name, phonemic awareness, phonological processing and L1 spelling is predicted at in EFL spelling at the beginning, middle and end of English instruction of formal school. The purpose of this article is to show the impact of L1 literacy such as phonemic and spelling on EFL spelling and the relationship between EFL literacy and EFL spelling. It took longitudinal observation of the first language (L1) of Hebrew students who gained spelling in English as a foreign language (EFL). L1 research revealed that letter knowledge is important for representation of phonemes by graphemes (Caravolas et al., 2001).

I totally agree with the idea that knowing the letter names and sounds usually predicts spelling for L1 English kindergarteners (Spencer, 2000) and for L1 Finnish first graders (Leppanen et al., 2006). This is because once you get the correct sound and name of a given letter then a learner can get the spelling right but if you do not know the correct name and sound of the letter, one can end up with the wrong spellings and hence letter knowledge is very important for representation of phonemes.

Difference between L1 spelling development and the results that relates to the strength of connection between English spelling and reading and it was reported that strong correlations between L1 English spelling and reading have a common base for the reading and spelling abilities. From my own judging, the strong correlation is achieved because when a learner gets the spellings right, he will automatically have the correct reading through pronunciation and vice versa.

It is true that spelling usually contributes to literacy acquisition because in the spelling there is a memory trace that assists the acquisition of specific word orthographic knowledge. This is achieved by having a memory of the word that you want to spell, having good memory of a word that you want to spell improves the literacy acquisition of a certain language. The weaker correlations seen between EFL word reading and spelling and this was affected by English word recognition was overshadowed by word attack and spelling of L1and predictors of EFL spelling and this calls for new policies to be made when giving instructions in Israel.

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Because the first grade Hebrew-speaking students in Israel acquire L1 Hebrew reading and spelling that uses vowelized orthographic and the presentation is transparent. This is achieved because the orthographic has some marks that are below or above the letters that makes reading easy. However, the Hebrew orthographic is less transparent when it comes to spelling and this is because of the 12 graphemes that represent five phonemes that include phonemes that are represented with a different grapheme in work final position and different silent graphemes that are morphologically instructive.

Children in elementary school read vowelized Hebrew texts for the first 2 years of school but when they go to the third grade and beyond, they are exposed to the opaque unvowelized form of Hebrew and this helps them to acquire phonological, orthographic, morphological, lexical and contextual processing for them to have successful decoding and spelling.

Young spellers may rely on phonology and letter names while spelling and they may develop in orthographic and morphemic knowledge. It was observed that association of both orthographic and morphological knowledge in kindergarten and first grade spellers (Share, 1995). I strongly agree with this point because the integration of orthographic and morphological knowledge helps learners to gain spelling skills faster. Much research has been done to get the connection between abilities of L1 and second language spelling using a cross-sectional design and it was found that English L1 variables had a connection with L2 spelling and that literacy of EFL was important to EFL spelling and Hebrew L1 variables contributed to EFL spelling.

I strongly agree with the argument that both reading and spelling skills need acquisition of orthographic representations which form words. This is because for a learner to be able to know how to read he has to have good knowledge of orthographic representation and for him to spell words correctly it is demanded that the learner has knowledge of the orthographic representation of a specific language. Spelling needs an accurate memory and production of the exact orthographic representation.


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