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PREDICTION ON ENGLISH-SPEAKING CHILDREN’S CHINESE SPOKEN WORD LEARNING: CONTRIBUTIONS OF PHONOLOGICAL SHORT-TERM MEMORY

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study is to investigate whether children’s phonological short-term memory (PM) could predict their ability to learn Chinese as a foreign language. Based on the working memory model from Baddeley and his colleagues (e.g., Baddeley & Hich, 1974; Baddeley, 2003), the role of PM in foreign language learning has been well-established. However, previous research has only involved related pairs of languages. This study chose Mandarin Chinese, a language phonologically distinct from English, as the target language and American children who had no previous exposure to Chinese as participants. A battery of measures was administered to test 37 fourth-grade children’s PM and Chinese spoken word learning ability. The results confirmed that children’s PM could independently predict their Chinese spoken word learning, suggesting that PM might be language-independent and thus explicit instruction on PM might be helpful for young learners. As one of the first to examine the role of PM in young children’s learning of a tonal foreign language such as Chinese, this study opens new areas for future research endeavors that have the potential of enriching understanding of PM in children’s learning of foreign languages. It also provides new insights in curricula design and instructional practices for teaching foreign languages.

Keywords

phonological short-term memory, tonal foreign language, Chinese spoken word learning, young children

How to Cite

Wei J., (2015) “PREDICTION ON ENGLISH-SPEAKING CHILDREN’S CHINESE SPOKEN WORD LEARNING: CONTRIBUTIONS OF PHONOLOGICAL SHORT-TERM MEMORY”, Journal of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching 22(0). p.101-129.

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Authors

Junli Wei (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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