Indicators of an "Immigrant Advantage" in the Writing of L3 French Learners
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Indicators of an "Immigrant Advantage" in the Writing of L3 French Learners
Abstract

Grounded in the cross-linguistic influence(s) (CLI) literature, this study used objective measures to compare the use of English, lexical richness and syntactic complexity, and grammatical accuracy and fluency in the texts of three groups of Grade 6 French immersion students: Canadian-born anglophones (C-A), Canadian-born multilinguals (C-M), and immigrant multilinguals (I-M). Findings identified use of English, vocabulary richness, and grammatical accuracy as the discriminating variables that had the most effect on the quality of writing of the three groups. The differences in performance on these specific writing aspects were most salient between the C-A and I-M groups. We propose that, in our data, the social status of immigrants might have a more profound influence on a student's approach to language learning and investment than that of being multilingual, and that this can translate directly in certain areas of language performance.

Résumé

Basée sur la littérature des influences translinguistiques, cette étude a utilisé des mesures objectives pour comparer le recours à l'anglais, la richesse lexicale et la complexité syntaxique, la précision grammaticale et la fluidité dans les textes de trois groupes d'élèves d'immersion française de la 6e année : 1) des anglophones canadiens, 2) des Canadiens multilingues et 3) des immigrants multilingues. Les résultats ont identifié le recours à l'anglais, la richesse lexicale et la précision grammaticale comme les variables qui ont le plus d'effet sur la qualité de l'écriture des trois groupes. Les différences de performance sur ces aspects spécifiques de l'écriture ont été plus marquées entre les groupes des anglophones canadiens et des immigrants multilingues. Nous proposons que, selon nos données, le statut social des élèves immigrants pourrait avoir une influence plus profonde sur leur approche et leur investissement dans l'apprentissage des langues que le fait d'être multilingue et que cette influence pourrait se traduire directement dans certains domaines de leur performance linguistique.

Keywords

multilingual language acquisition, second language acquisition, second language writing

Mots clés :

acquisition langagière multilingue, acquisition d'une langue seconde, écriture en langue seconde[End Page 368]

Grounded in the cross-linguistic influence(s) (CLI) literature, this study compared the use of English, lexical richness and syntactic complexity, and grammatical accuracy and fluency in the texts of three groups of Grade 6 French immersion students: Canadian-born anglophones (C-A), Canadian-born multilinguals (C-M), and immigrant multilinguals (I-M). The paper builds on findings from a larger project that was designed to address both psycholinguistic and sociopolitical/sociolinguistic questions (i.e., issues of inclusion and educational policy and practices) related to multilingualism and its effect on student achievement as they apply to learning French in the Canadian context (Mady, 2012a, 2012b, 2012c). More broadly, the paper contributes to the growing literature on aspects of L3 acquisition and factors that affect L3 attainment.

At the psycholinguistic level, the broader project included and operationalized several of the factors known to affect language learning attainment and more specifically L2/L3 learning achievement (e.g., metalinguistic awareness and strategy use). Many studies attribute the advantages of bilingual students learning an L3 to increased strategy use (e.g., Kemp, 2007) and heightened metalinguistic awareness (e.g., Jessner, 2006; Lasagabaster, 2001; Tullock and Fernández-Villanueva, 2013). Studies distinguishing multilingual immigrant from multilingual native-born students learning French in English-dominant regions in Canada where immigrants outperform other groups without enhanced strategy use or metalinguistic awareness (e.g., Mady 2013, 2014a, 2014b), however, highlight the need for further research that distinguishes groups beyond number of languages known. Likewise for this larger project, the findings (summarized below and referenced above) showed a net advantage for multilingual immigrant students over the other two groups in all aspects of language performance, including writing. In this paper, we propose an in-depth analysis of the participants' written production in an attempt to pinpoint the areas of writing performance that are more influenced by the students' linguistic background variables. The analysis aims to reveal how students...


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