The Impact of Preschool Education on L1 Vocabulary Development and Sequential Bilingualism: The Case of Arab Schoolchildren

Ahmed Masrai


Considerable research has investigated the effect of preschool education on subsequent school success and proposed a positive link between the two. Less research, however, has directly investigated the influence of preschool education on children’s vocabulary development. This paper reports on a study that examines the impact of preschool education on children’s first language (L1) vocabulary development in early childhood settings and the potential impact this has on the successive acquisition of second language (L2) vocabulary in later school years. To conduct the study, data from 200 Arabic-English successive bilingual children were collected. The data are scores on receptive vocabulary knowledge in L1 and L2 of two groups of fourth grade schoolchildren (with and without preschool education). The results show that: (1) preschool education contributes largely to L1 vocabulary development and L2 vocabulary acquisition; (2) there is a strong link between L1 and L2 receptive vocabulary knowledge; and (3) bilingual mental lexicon size is predicted by preschool education. The present study provides further insights on the relation between preschool education and L1 vocabulary growth and the influence of this on sequential bilingualism. These findings will allow informed decisions on the support for preschool education by parents and educational policymakers.


First Language, Second Language, Vocabulary, Bilingualism, Preschool Education

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