Francesca Costa, Stefania Sharley & Maria Teresa Guasti

Learning to read in two languages simultaneously – within an immersion programme - is still believed by many stakeholders in education to cause a delay in the process of literacy acquisition. Forty-one Italian-English bilingual first- and third-graders (attending a bilingual primary school in Italy) and a control group of thirty-seven monolingual Italian pupils in Grades 1 and 3 were administered tasks, in Italian, measuring the following skills: non-verbal reasoning, reading decoding and morphological awareness. Bilingual participants who had been exposed to Italian since birth and to English within the first three years of their lives did not lag behind monolingual in the reading performance in Italian. Moreover, even when a difference between the two groups was present in their Italian oral performance, this disappeared by Grade 3. Overall, it seems that, when dual-language exposure occurs at an early age, learning to read in an L1, Italian, and an L2, English, at the same time, does not have a negative impact on reading performance in Italian.

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