Chiara Melloni Michela Redolfi Maria Vender

Literacy skills in Italian L2 children with a migrant background: a qualitative analysis of spelling errors

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L2 children experience more difficulties in literacy acquisition than their monolingual peers, and their fragilities could be misdiagnosed as learning disabilities. In this light, an accurate identification of the L2 literacy profile is of utmost importance for improving clinical and educational practices. The few available studies on L2 Italian indicate a wider bilingual gap in spelling than in reading, but research on L2 learners’ spelling deficits is still limited. In the present study, we assessed the literacy profile of 25 L2 Italian children and 15 Italian monolingual children by administering standardized word and nonword reading and spelling tasks. We especially focused on spelling skills and error types, which were classified along various dimensions. Results showed that while monolingual children outperformed L2 children in word reading, the two groups did not differ in nonword reading. Spelling was more severely impaired in L2 children, who were less accurate than monolinguals with both words and non-words and had a below-average performance with words. The analysis of errors also revealed significant group differences, with L2 children falling behind monolinguals in the application of orthographic rules and consonant doubling, while no group difference was found in the phonological plausibility of the errors. Our findings hence contribute to a better comprehension of the L2 learner’s literacy profile, with implications for clinical and educational settings.


  • L2 literacy
  • bilingualism
  • orthographic rules
  • phonological plausibility
  • lexical competence


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