Low-income Latino preschooler’s learning of English as a function of child first language proficiency, closeness with adults, and teacher dominant language




Kim, Yoon Kyong

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Speaking more than one language is an important skill in today’s global society but becoming fully bilingual can be difficult for low-income, English language learners (ELL) while making their transition to school. Previous literature has focused on how bilingual children perform better than monolinguals on a variety of cognitive tasks, and on constructing different types of bilingual education programs but not on environmental or socio-emotional factors that help predict second language (L2) acquisition. In this study, data from 3,530 four-year-old preschoolers from the Miami School Readiness Project were used to show how environmental and individual factors predict development of childhood L2 acquisition. Repeated- measures ANOVAs revealed that there were no significant differences in the growth of English in preschool between the groups of English-speaking children and Spanish-speaking children who had either a predominantly English- or Spanish-speaking teacher. However, a year later ELLs who had an English-speaking preschool teacher were more advanced in English than those with a predominantly Spanish-speaking teacher. Regression analyses showed that children’s first language (L1; Spanish) competence measured in preschool significantly predicted their L2 (English) proficiency later in kindergarten. Also, closeness with adults positively predicted L2 (English) proficiency both within the preschool years and in kindergarten. Finally, teacher’s dominant language was the strongest predictor of L2 (English) proficiency although child gender, closeness with adults, children’s first language were also related to English proficiency. Overall, it was found that strengthening children’s first language, being closer to adults, and having an English-speaking preschool teacher helps ELL children become proficient in L2 (English).



Bilingualism, Preschool, First Language, English Language Learner, Teacher Language, Second Language