Purpose

In this study, the authors investigated factors that affect bilingual children’s vocabulary and story recall abilities in their 2 languages.

Method

Participants included 191 Latino families and their children, who averaged 59 months of age. Data on parental characteristics and children’s exposure to and usage of Spanish and English were collected. The authors assessed children’s Spanish and English vocabulary and story recall abilities using subtests of the Woodcock–Muñoz Language Survey—Revised (Woodcock, Muñoz-Sandoval, Ruef, & Alvarado, 2005).

Results

Sizeable percentages of variation in children’s English (R2 = .61) and Spanish (R2 = .55) vocabulary scores were explained by children’s exposure to, and usage of, each language and maternal characteristics. Similarly, variations in children’s story recall scores in English (R2 = .38) and Spanish (R2 = .19) were also explained by the factors considered in this investigation. However, the authors found that different sets of factors in each category affected children’s vocabulary and story recall abilities in each language.

Conclusions

Children’s exposure to and usage of their two languages as well as maternal characteristics play significant roles in bilingual individuals' language development. The results highlight the importance of gathering detailed sociolinguistic information about bilingual children when these children are involved in research and when they enter the educational system.

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Additional Resources