English phonological specificity predicts early French reading difficulty in emerging bilingual children

  • Klaudia KrencaEmail author
  • Alexandra Gottardo
  • Esther Geva
  • Xi Chen


The purpose of the present study was to examine the predictive value of a dynamic test of English and French lexical specificity on at-risk reading classification in 13 at-risk and 44 not at-risk emerging English (L1)–French (L2) bilingual Grade 1 children (M = 75.87 months, SD = 3.18) enrolled in an early French immersion program in Canada. Lexical specificity was assessed with a computerized word learning game in which children were taught new English (e.g., “foal” and “sole”) and French (e.g., bac “bin” and bague “ring”) word pairs contrasted by minimal phonological differences. The results indicated that the dynamic test of lexical specificity in English contributed significantly to the prediction of children’s French at-risk reading status at the end of Grade 1 after controlling for French phonological awareness and nonverbal reasoning skills. However, French lexical specificity did not predict children’s reading risk classification in French after controlling for French phonological awareness. Thus, it may be feasible to identify at-risk status in emerging bilinguals using dynamic measures in their stronger language.


Dynamic assessment Early identification French immersion Lexical specificity Linguistic transfer Phonological awareness Reading disabilities 



A special thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Steele, Dr. Eliane Segers, Dr. Ludo Verhoeven, Sharry Shakory, and Alexandra Bellissimo for their invaluable guidance and support throughout the project. This research would not have been possible without the support of the teachers, parents, and children at our partner schools, in addition to all of the research assistants of the Multilingualism and Literacy Lab.

Funding information

This research was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant No. 430-2015-00786 (to X.C.).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The International Dyslexia Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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