Advantages of bilinguals over monolinguals in learning a third language

Salim Abu-Rabia, Ekaterina Sanitsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study is an examination of the contribution of bilingualism to trilingualism, namely the influence of learning two different orthographies on learning a third. The participants were two groups of sixth graders from Israeli schools who were studying English as a foreign (second or third) language: Russian Israeli children for whom Russian was their native language and Hebrew was their second language and a control group of native Hebrew speakers. The participants were administered cognitive and metacognitive linguistic tests: IQ, reading strategies, syntactic judgment, orthographic choice, orthographic knowledge, and phonological awareness tests. In addition, language knowledge tests were also given: Vocabulary, word reading, spelling, and reading comprehension. The MANOVA procedures indicated stronger English skills among the native Russian speakers than the native Hebrew speakers on almost all measures. However, both groups showed similar proficiency on the Hebrew measures. Our findings give more support to the notion that knowledge of several different orthographies enhances rather than diminishes L1 and L2 proficiency. The results are discussed in light of across-language transfer, the orthographic depth hypothesis, and the psycholinguistic grain-size theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-199
Number of pages27
JournalBilingual Research Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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