Exploring the relationship between native language skills and foreign language learning in children with language impairments.
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Title: Exploring the relationship between native language skills and foreign language learning in children with language impairments. Background: Dutch children with language impairments (LI) in primary education are obliged to learn English as a foreign language (FL). These children experience difficulties learning English as a FL. Factors related to the school, child (native language difficulties) and differences in languages (Dutch versus English) might influence FL learning. Almost no literature on LI and FL learning exists. Aim: To investigate if there is a relationship between native language proficiency and learning English as a FL in Dutch children with LI. Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted in the eighth grade of four primary schools specifically for children with LI. Fifty-nine children participated in this study, native speakers of English were excluded. Auditory and written English language skills were measured with a test used as a standard in the Netherlands to assess English proficiency. Oral and written Dutch language skills were assessed with two standardised language tests and a Dutch word decoding test. Results: Significant and positively weak relationships were found between morphosyntactic skills in Dutch and English listening skills, as well as English written vocabulary. A significant and positively moderately strong correlation was also found between morphosyntactic skills in Dutch and English reading skills, and between Dutch word decoding skills and English written vocabulary. Conclusion: Significant relationships were found between Dutch- and English language skills. It is possible that children with LI are not capable of learning a FL on an acceptable level, because of their poor Dutch word decoding skills and morphosyntactic skills. Recommendations: More possible predictors of success in FL learning, such as non-verbal intelligence, motivation and exposure to the English language need to be investigated.