Orthographic learning and self-teaching in a bilingual and biliterate context

Mila Schwartz, Janina Kahn-Horwitz, David L. Share

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study was to examine self-teaching in the context of English as a foreign language literacy acquisition. Three groups comprising 88 sixth-grade children participated. The first group consisted of Russian-Hebrew-speaking bilinguals who had acquired basic reading skills in Russian as their first language (L1) and literacy and who were literate in Hebrew as a second language. The second group consisted of Russian-Hebrew-speaking bilinguals who had not learned to read in their native Russian but had acquired Hebrew as their first literate language. The third group consisted of Hebrew-speaking monolingual children who were literate in Hebrew. This design facilitated examining the effect of biliteracy and bilingualism on basic English reading skills. We hypothesized that due to the proximity between the Russian and English orthographies as opposed to the Hebrew-English "distance," the Russian-Hebrew-speaking biliterate group who acquired basic reading and spelling skills in L1 Russian would have superior self-teaching in English as opposed to the two other groups. The standard two-session self-teaching paradigm was employed with naming (speed and accuracy) and orthographic choice as posttest measures of orthographic learning. Results showed that after 4. years of English instruction, all three groups showed evidence of self-teaching on naming speed and orthographic recognition. The Russian-Hebrew-speaking biliterate group, moreover, showed a partial advantage over the comparison groups for initial decoding of target pseudowords and clear-cut superiority for measures of later orthographic learning, thereby showing self-teaching while supporting the script dependence hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was jointly funded a grant from the MOFET Institute and the Department of Teacher Education at the Ministry of Education, Israel, awarded to the second author (2009–2010) and by a grant from the Oranim College M.Ed. Program awarded to the first two authors.


  • Bilingualism
  • Biliterate
  • English foreign language
  • Orthographic learning
  • Script dependence
  • Self-teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Orthographic learning and self-teaching in a bilingual and biliterate context'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this