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Lexical Quality of English Second Language Learners:
Effects of Focused Training on Orthographic Encoding Skill


Susan Dunlap, Benjamin Friedline, Alan Juffs, Charles A. Perfetti

The Research Problem:

Arabic L1 students of ESL have poorer orthographic representations (i.e., spelling) than other L1 backgrounds (e.g., Korean, Chinese, Spanish). This difference cannot be accounted for by L1 writing system, L1 orthographic depth, or L2 vocabulary knowledge/fluency.
Phase 1 -
Can we statistically confirm teacher observations of L1 background differences in spelling ability of ESL students?
Phase 2 -
Can an intervention using focused, meaning-based encoding increase the quality of lexical representations for these learners?

Background and Significance:

The Intervention Design:

Subject (between-subjects) Variables -- L1; ESL Level
Independent Variable (within-subjects) -- training condition (form only, form+meaning)
Dependent Variables -- accuracy on audio dictation and spelling recognition tasks; gains from pre-test to post-test


Results of Phase 1 show that:
- Arabic L1 group makes more errors compared to other L1 groups; this difference persists through Level 5
- Vowel errors were the most prevalent for Arabic L1
- For all L1 groups, errors decrease from Level 3 to Level 5
Results of Phase 2 show that:
- There was some improvement from pre-test to post-test scores on audio dictation (spelling) and spell check (lexical decision) tasks.