Metalinguistic awareness and reading performance: A cross language comparison

Raphiq Ibrahim, Zohar Eviatar, Judith Aharon-Peretz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study examined two questions: (1) do the greater phonological awareness skills of billinguals affect reading performance; (2) to what extent do the orthographic characteristics of a language influence reading performance and how does this interact with the effects of phonological awareness. We estimated phonological metalinguistic abilities and reading measures in three groups of first graders: monolingual Hebrew speakers, bilingual Russian-Hebrew speakers, and Arabic-speaking children. We found that language experience affects phonological awareness, as both Russian-Hebrew bilinguals and the Arabic speakers achieved higher scores on metalinguistic tests than Hebrew speakers. Orthography affected reading measures and their correlation with phonological abilitites. Children reading Hebrew showed better text reading ability and significant correlations between phonological awareness and reading scores. Children reading Arabic showed a slight advantage in single word and nonword reading over the two Hebrew reading groups, and very weak relationships between phonological abilities and reading performance. We conclude that native Arabic speakers have more difficulty in processing Arabic orthography than Hebrew monolinguals and bilinguals have in processing Hebrew orthography, and suggest that this is due to the additional visual complexity of Arabic orthography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Arabic speakers
  • Bilingualism
  • Metalinguistic abilities
  • Monolingual Hebrew speakers
  • Orthography
  • Russian-Hebrew speakers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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