Teachers in many countries face the challenge of teaching classrooms with students in increasingly diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds due to increasing social and economic globalization, and mobility across the world (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; UNESCO, 2012). According to Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research (2007), a portion of L2 learners of Norwegian do not fare well at schools especially in the area of reading and writing, and a high drop-out rate has been reported among them rather than L1 learners.
The purposes of present study were to examine differences of the letter knowledge and phonological processing performances between (a) High-LS children and Low LS children and between (b) L1 and L2 learners. The participants were divided into two groups of L1 learners and L2 learners based on their language background. L1 and L2 learners were again divided into two groups according to their level of language skill (High-LS vs. Low-LS) measured by TROG. The present study was written in connection with KiSP project “Knowledge generation in the practice field of special needs education” at the Department of Special Needs Education, University of Oslo.
The results of the present study were in line with the previous research (Lonigan & et al., 1998; Puranik & Lonigan, 2012) and revealed that children with high language skill outperformed children with low language skill in letter knowledge and phonological processing tasks. The results for L1 and L2 learners also revealed that by taking into account the level of oral language skills (High vs. Low LS), no statistically significant differences observed in performances between L1 and L2 learners. These findings suggest that L2 learners with High-LS can develop emergent literacy skills including letter knowledge and phonological processing skills in Norwegian words at the same level as L1 learners. Thus, the same instructional methods as L1 learners can also foster the development of literacy for L2 children (Chiappe, Siegel & Wade-Woolley, 2002b; Chiappe, Siegel & Gottardo, 2002a). More emphasis on oral language instruction, of course, is needed to improve L1 and L2 learners' proficiency in Norwegian literacy. Last but not least, divers’ language background of our participants suggests the study's findings are applicable to all L2 learners of Norwegian regardless of their first learnt language.