von Hagen, A. 1 , Stadie, N. 2 , Robidoux, S. 3 & Kohnen, S. . 3
1 National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
2 University of Potsdam, Germany
3 Macquarie University, Australia
This study investigated the role of native language skills as a source of individual differences in foreign language attainment of children with poor literacy skills. A sample of 32 German native speaking children (11-12 years) with poor literacy skills, who were learning English as a foreign language, completed eight native and equivalent foreign language tasks (i.e. nonword discrimination and repetition, spoken word-picture matching, picture naming, nonword reading and spelling, word reading and spelling). In addition, we collected measures on children's linguistic background, intellectual ability, short term and working memory and foreign language learning motivation.
Native language speech sound perception, spoken word production, nonword reading, word reading and spelling skills significantly contributed to explaining individual differences in equivalent foreign language measures. Furthermore, only foreign language learning motivation, but none of the other broader cognitive measures played a significant role in accounting for the observed variance in poor reader/spellers' foreign language performance.
Our findings underline the need to take into account native language skills to reach a better understanding of individual differences in foreign language attainment of children with poor literacy skills.