Purpose. This study aimed to determine if emerging bilingual 5-to 7-year-old children demonstrate greater grammatical metalinguistic skills than their monolingual peers. This study also aimed to determine if these children perform differently on tasks requiring different levels of metalinguistic skills.
Method. Twenty-four 5- to 7-year-old children participated in this study, including 12 emerging bilingual children and 12 monolingual English speaking children. The 24 participants were taught two novel grammatical morphemes, a gender marking and an aspect marking. One marking was taught with explicit instruction, and the other with implicit instruction. The explicit instruction provided a higher level of metalinguistic support than did the implicit instruction. Learning of the target morphemes was assessed using generalization probes during which the participants were asked to apply the novel markings.
Results. The emerging bilingual children more successfully learned the gender marking with explicit instruction than did the monolingual children. Across both language groups, children more successfully learned the marking with explicit instruction compared to implicit instruction. Conclusions. Study results suggest that emerging bilingual children demonstrate a language learning advantage when learning simpler grammatical forms with metalinguistic support. Study results also suggest that 5- to 7-year-old children more successfully learn language when provided metalinguistic support through explicit instruction, compared to implicit instruction that does not include this support.