Original Research

Phonological awareness and learning to read in Afrikaans: The role of working memory

Marizel Scheepers, Salomé Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Marien Graham
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 11, No 1 | a947 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v11i1.947 | © 2021 Marizel Scheepers, Salomé Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Marien Graham | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 October 2020 | Published: 16 August 2021

About the author(s)

Marizel Scheepers, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Salomé Geertsema, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Mia le Roux, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Marien Graham, Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Phonological awareness (PA) skills and working memory (WM) are universally regarded as crucial precursors to skilled reading. The orthography of the language being read influences the ease with which a child learns to read. Research has been undertaken on reading in languages with an opaque orthography. Research on the role of PA and WM in Afrikaans with its transparent orthography is limited.

Aim: The study investigated and described the role of WM in the acquisition of PA and ultimately reading in Afrikaans.

Setting: The research study was conducted in private schools with Afrikaans as the language of learning and teaching (LoLT) in Grade 2.

Method: A descriptive research design with correlational components was applied.

Results: Phonetic decoding was employed more than eidetic decoding. Word reading skills developed rapidly and exceeded the expectations in the first two quarters of the year. Participants who read the comprehension test fluently scored higher on the questions than those who did not read fluently. The correlation between WM and reading comprehension was not statistically significant. The statistically significant correlation between WM and word reading seems to be present in both transparent and opaque orthographies. The statistically significant correlation between PA and word reading was not found in other transparent orthographies. The correlation between phonemic awareness (PhA) and word reading is the same in other orthographies.

Conclusion: The statistically significant correlation between WM and word reading indicates that WM supports reading development as the ability to hold information in memory supports phoneme-grapheme associations.


Keywords

Afrikaans; beginning readers; decoding strategies; phonemic awareness; phonological awareness; transparent orthography; working memory

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