Phonology, Working Memory, and Foreign-language Learning
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Three tasks were used to predict English learning by Finnish children over a three-year period. In the pseudoword repetition task the pupils had to repeat aloud tape-recorded pseudowords sounding like Finnish or English. In the pseudoword copying task the pupils saw strings of letters resembling Finnish or English words and copied them when they had disappeared from view. When comparing syntactic-semantic structures, the pupils had to find the syntactically matching pairs from two sets of Finnish sentences. Repetition and copying accuracy and the ability to compare syntactic-semantic structures predicted English learning. Intercorrelations between test scores and English and mathematics grades suggest that repetition and copying accuracy were specifically related to language learning. It is concluded that the ability to represent unfamiliar phonological material in working memory underlies the acquisition of new vocabulary items in foreign-language learning.
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