How First-Language Instruction Transfers to Majority-Language Skills

Simon Calmar Andersen, Thorbjørn Sejr Guul, Maria Knoth Humlum.


With an increasing influx of immigrant children in many countries, questions of how to prepare them for further education become highly salient. Few studies have examined the effect of first-language instrucion on children´s engagement in school and how that may later transfer into better majority-languauge outcomes. A randomized controlled trial in Denmanrk (N = 230) took an asset-based approach to student´cultural and linguistic background. We found that first-language instruction of majority-language learners (average 7,1 years) reduced their behavioral problems in school, increased their school satisfaction and their parents engagement. We saw no immediate effect on their spoken first-language skills, but one year after the intervention endet, reading skills in the majority language were substantially improved. Half of this improvement could be explained by reduced behavioral problems. The results thereby indicate that students´ linguistic and cultural background is key to make first-language instruction transfer into majority-language skills. 

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