Effects of Spanish Vocabulary Knowledge on the English Word Knowledge and Listening Comprehension of Bilingual Students


The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of first-language (i.e., Spanish) receptive vocabulary on both expressive and receptive knowledge of target vocabulary words taught through second-language (L2; i.e., English) instruction and intervention. Participants were bilingual U.S. kindergarten students determined to be at risk based on English receptive vocabulary. To determine student vocabulary level in Spanish, the authors administered a receptive Spanish vocabulary assessment. Students were grouped into matched clusters within classrooms. Clusters were randomly assigned to receive whole-group vocabulary instruction only in L2 (i.e., the control group; n  =  172) or whole-group plus small-group vocabulary instruction in L2 (i.e., the treatment group; n  =  179). Findings indicated that bilingual students with high receptive vocabulary knowledge in Spanish significantly outperformed bilingual students with low receptive vocabulary knowledge in Spanish. Effects of Spanish vocabulary knowledge were maintained a year later, at the end of first grade, as measured by a researcher-developed expressive vocabulary measure in English. The study did not find an interaction effect between condition and student level of Spanish receptive vocabulary. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Baker, D. L., McCoach, B. D., Ware, S., Coyne, M. D., & Rattan, S. M. (2021). Effects of Spanish vocabulary knowledge on the English word knowledge and listening comprehension of bilingual students. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2021.1908219