Le site de vulgarisation scientifique de l’Université de Liège. ULg, Université de Liège

Is early bilingual immersion a good thing?

The right cards

apprentissageThe University of Liège's Neuropsychology of Language and Learning Unit has been conducting research on early second-language immersion education, particularly focusing on the impact of English immersion on French writing. 

For a study published in 2009(3), the ULg psychologists systematically evaluated children from their second to their sixth year of primary school, using standard reading tests and then much more nuanced tests, for example using letters that aren't pronounced the same way in English and French. As a reminder, these children first learn to read in English, then in French the following year. 

What were the results of this study? Martine Poncelet: "First of all, children in English immersion programs had the same level of general reading comprehension (in French) as monolinguals by the third year of primary school, and also performed similarly on tests that required them to decode French written words with letters that aren't pronounced the same way in French and English. As for spelling in French, our results showed that children in English immersion spelled just as well as their monolingual peers. And at the end of their fifth year of primary school, they were able to transcribe graphemes that differed the most between French and English as well as their monolingual counterparts.” 

Overall, the study showed that by the sixth year of primary school there were no differences in reading or spelling between children in bilingual immersion and monolingual children. Of course, this is an average that some children deviated from either on the higher or lower end. 

 In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology(4), Martine Poncelet and Anne-Catherine Nicolay, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology: Cognition and Behaviour, addressed another key question: are all children able to benefit from second-language immersion? "Our goal was not to discriminate, but rather to highlight certain characteristics that might make immersion more difficult, in order to help children with lesser abilities access these programs regardless." reveals Martine Poncelet.

In addition to intellectual ability, Anne-Catherine Nicolay evaluated an entire series of cognitive skills in children in their third year of pre-school, just before they started an immersion program: short-term verbal memory, auditory discrimination (the cognitive ability to distinguish between sounds), phonological awareness, as well as attentional and executive skills. Next, she evaluated the same children every year to measure how well they had acquired the second-language vocabulary at the end of each of the first three years of elementary school. 

(3) Nicolay, A.C., Fantauzzi, A., Comblain, A., & Poncelet, M. (2009). Impact de l'apprentissage de la lecture et de l'écriture en anglais sur l'acquisition ultérieure de la lecture et de l'orthographe en français chez des enfants francophones immergés en anglais. In N. Marec-Breton, A.-S. Besse, F. de la Haye, N. Bonneton-Botté &, E. Bonjour. (Eds), Apprentissage de la langue écrite. Approche cognitive (pp.49-66). Rennes : Presses Universitaires de Rennes. 
(4) Nicolay, A.-C., & Poncelet, M. (2013). Cognitive abilities underlying L2 vocabulary acquisition in an early L2-immersion educational context: A longitudinal study. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 115, 655-671. http://orbi.ulg.ac.be/handle/2268/153896

Page : previous 1 2 3 4 5 next


© 2007 ULi�ge