Lexical development in L2 children from partial immersion and early EFL schools: The cognate faciliation effect

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An increasing number of L2 children follow a partial immersion education as an attempt to acquire the second language in a more naturalistic environment. However, the implications of partial immersion schools on L2 acquisition are not entirely known. The aim of the current study is to investigate the impact of partial immersion education on young L2 children’s receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge. Of great significance was the degree to which L2 children rely on their L1 lexical knowledge when using the L2 vocabulary. 50 native Dutch children learning English as a second language participated in the current study. 25 were following a partial immersion education and 25 an early EFL educational program. L2 children’s receptive vocabulary knowledge was examined with the PPVT-4 vocabulary test and their productive vocabulary knowledge was measured with the EVT-2 vocabulary test. Children’s lexical development was examined in two points in time, the first at grade 3 (aged 6-7) and the second at grade 5 (aged 8-9). The degree of L1 lexical reliance was measured through the cognate facilitation effect. The results revealed that L2 children from partial immersion schools outperformed their peers from early EFL schools on both the receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge. However, the difference between the two groups was greater for the productive than the receptive vocabulary test. When children’s performance on cognates was examined, it was observed that both groups scored higher on cognates than non-cognate words. However, the partial immersion group showed a better performance on both cognates and non-cognates compared to the early EFL group. Lastly, L2 children showed a rapid lexical growth from grade 3 to grade 5, especially on their productive vocabulary knowledge.
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