An Investigation of the Cross-Language Transfer of Reading Skills: Evidence from a Study in Nigerian Government Primary Schools

Steve Humble, Pauline Dixon*, Louise Gittins, Chris Counihan

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper investigates the linguistic interdependence of Grade 3 children studying in government primary schools in northern Nigeria who are learning to read in Hausa (L1) and English (L2) simultaneously. There are few studies in the African context that consider linguistic interdependence and the bidirectional influences of literacy skills in multilingual contexts. A total of 2328 Grade 3 children were tested on their Hausa and English letter sound knowledge (phonemes) and reading decoding skills (word) after participating in a two-year English structured reading intervention programme as part of their school day. In Grade 4, these children will become English immersion learners, with English becoming the medium of instruction. Carrying out bivariate correlations, we find a large and strongly positively significant correlation between L1 and L2 test scores. Concerning bidirectionality, a feedback path model illustrates that the L1 word score predicts the L2 word score and vice versa. Multi-level modelling is then used to consider the variation in test scores. Almost two thirds of the variation in the word score is attributable to the pupil level and one third to the school level. The Hausa word score is significantly predicted through Hausa sound and English word score. English word score is significantly predicted through Hausa word and English sound score. The findings have implications for language policy and classroom instruction, showing the importance of cross-language transfer between reading skills. The overall results support bidirectionality and linguistic interdependence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number274
Number of pages12
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2024

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