Literacy Outcomes of a Chinese / English Bilingual Program in Ontario
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Literacy Outcomes of a Chinese / English Bilingual Program in Ontario

This study examined the performance of Mandarin-speaking students in a K–Grade 4 50/50 Chinese/English bilingual program. The program was intended to facilitate students' learning of English and their adjustment to English-medium instruction within the school context. The bilingual-program students were compared to students from Mandarin-speaking backgrounds whose school instruction was conducted totally in English but who attended a weekly 2.5-hour Chinese language class conducted outside of the regular school day through the International Languages Program funded by the Ontario government. Students' abilities in phonological awareness, vocabulary knowledge, morphological awareness, and word reading were measured. Results showed that students in the bilingual program who received less English instruction overall performed comparably in all English measures to their peers in the English-only programs. Some differences in favour of the bilingual-program students were observed in Chinese language and literacy measures, specifically in character recognition. Students in the bilingual program performed above grade norms on standardized measures of English literacy skills and in the Grade 3 provincial standardized testing of English reading and writing abilities.


Cette recherche étudie les performances des élèves de mandarin dans un programme bilingue mandarin-anglais jusqu'à la 4e année du primaire. L'objectif de ce programme est de faciliter l'apprentissage de l'anglais et l'adaptation à l'enseignement scolaire en anglais. Les élèves du programme bilingue ont été comparés à des élèves sinophones inscrits dans un programme anglophone régulier qui suivaient 2,5 heures de cours hebdomadaires de chinois en dehors de l'école, dans le contexte du Programme de langues internationales du gouvernement ontarien. La conscience phonologique, la connaissance du vocabulaire, la conscience morphologique et l'habileté à lire des mots ont été mesurées. Les comparaisons n'ont révélé aucune différence entre les groupes dans les épreuves en anglais en dépit du fait que les élèves du programme bilingue avaient eu moins d'instruction en anglais. Quelques différences en faveur du programme bilingue ont été observées dans les épreuves de langue et d'alphabétisation chinoise, en particulier dans la capacité de reconnaissance des caractères. Les élèves du programme bilingue ont obtenu des résultats supérieurs à la moyenne dans les tests [End Page 343] standardisés de lecture et d'écriture en anglais, de même que dans les tests provinciaux standardisés de lecture et d'écriture de 3e année.


bilingual education, bilingualism, cross-linguistic transfer, Mandarin instruction, reading performance in L1 and L2

Mots clés :

éducation bilingue, bilinguisme, transfert interlinguistique, enseignement du mandarin, performance de lecture en L1 et L2

According to Cummins (2008), bilingual education refers to the use of two languages as languages of instruction in the curriculum. The increasing popularity of bilingual education is evident in the emergence of more bilingual programs in many countries (Cummins & Hornberger, 2008). In the Canadian context, much of the research on bilingual education has examined the outcomes of French immersion programs (e.g., Genesee & Jared, 2008; Genesee & Lindholm-Leary, 2008; Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Lapkin, Hart, & Turnbull, 2003; Swain & Lapkin, 1983; Turnbull, Lapkin, & Hart, 2001). In comparison, the investigation of outcomes of bilingual programs involving languages other than English and French is less forthcoming. One reason for this disparity is that there are fewer programs in the country involving non-official (henceforth heritage) languages. However, in the research available on these programs, outcomes similar to those of French/English bilingual programs have been found (e.g., Lamont, Penner, Power, Mosychuk, & Jones, 1978). Cummins and Danesi (1990) reviewed Canadian evaluations of bilingual programs initiated in the 1970s involving heritage languages. They concluded that for children in bilingual and enrichment programs, receiving instruction mainly in the minority language did not negatively affect their performance in the majority language. Some children in these programs even performed significantly better academically in English (the majority language) than those in English-only programs.

Western Canada, especially Alberta, boasts several bilingual programs involving heritage languages. For example, five elementary schools...