Phonological skills as predictor of reading success: An investigation of emergent bilingual Northern Sotho/English learners

  • Carien Wilsenach


The relationship between phonological skills and reading has not been studied extensively in the African languages spoken in South Africa. This study focuses on phonological skills and reading in emergent bilingual Northern Sotho/English learners. Fifty Grade 3 learners (all native speakers of Northern Sotho) were tested on non-word repetition skills, syllable awareness, phonological working memory and reading. The learners fell into two groups: group 1 attended a school where English was the medium of instruction from the first grade, while group 2 attended a school where literacy instruction took place in Northern Sotho for the first three years of schooling. The results indicate that there is a significant correlation between phonological skills and reading in Northern Sotho. Furthermore, group 2 performed significantly better on all of the phonological measures (with the exception of phonological working memory) and reading measures. The findings suggest that a complete lack of mother tongue instruction can influence phonological and literacy development negatively. The study also suggests that the absence of mother tongue literacy instruction causes stagnation in the development of phonological processing skills in the mother tongue.


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Author Biography

Carien Wilsenach
Dr Carien Wilsenach is a Senior Lecturer in the Departement of Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies at the University of South Africa.E-mail address: