Research in brief

The Canadian Challenge

Canadians take pride in being part of a bilingual nation, but becoming fully bilingual means learners must master speaking, reading and writing in both languages. While working with French immersion children, Network investigator Hélène Deacon of Dalhousie University noticed a considerable discrepancy in reading outcomes from one child to the next. In a Network project funded in 2005, Dr. Deacon and her team began to identify which variables are linked to mastery of dual literacy for children in bilingual and French immersion environments.


Results to date show wide variability in the language and literacy skills of biliterate children. A longitudinal study will help find out whether skills, such as the understanding of roots and suffixes, transfer from one language to another.


(1) We will understand the skills that help individuals become fully bilingual. (2) We hope to be able to identify the variables that determine who succeeds and who struggles. We can then focus on those specific predictors to potentially overcome deficiencies.

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Just because I don't speak English doesn't mean I'm not smart. I speak another language with my family at home. With the right instruction, I can learn English quickly.

Children like me, who lack English vocabulary skills can draw upon already known language and literacy skills in their first language. And the younger we begin to learn English, the quicker we will acquire these skills. Proper instruction is the key.

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