Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

An investigation of the cross-language transfer of reading skills: Evidence from a study in Nigerian Government Primary Schools

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Steve Humble MBEORCiD, Professor Pauline Dixon, Dr Chris Counihan



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


This paper investigates the linguistic interdependence of grade 3 children studying in government primary schools in northern Nigeria who are learning to read in Hausa (L1) and English (L2) simultaneously. There are few studies in the African context that consider linguistic interdependence and the bidirectional influences of literacy skills in multilingual contexts. To do so a total of 2,328 grade 3 children were tested on their Hausa and English letter sound knowledge (phonemes) and reading decoding skills (word) after participating in a two-year English structured reading intervention programme as part of their school day. In grade 4 these children will become English immersion learners, with English becoming the medium of instruction. Carrying out bivariate correlations we find a large and strongly positively significant correlation between L1 and L2 test scores. Concerning bidirectionality a feedback path model illustrates that L1 word predicts L2 word and vice versa. Multi-level modelling is then used to consider the variation in test scores. Almost two thirds of the variation in the word score is attributable to the pupil level and one third to the school level. Hausa word score is significantly predicted through Hausa sound and English word score. English word score is significantly predicted through Hausa word and English sound score. The findings have implications for language policy and classroom instruction showing the importance of cross-language transfer between reading skills. The overall results support bidirectionality and linguistic interdependence.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Humble S, Dixon P, Gittins L, Counihan C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Education Sciences

Year: 2024

Volume: 13

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 06/03/2024

Acceptance date: 03/03/2024

Date deposited: 06/03/2024

ISSN (electronic): 2227-7102

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/educsci14030274


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric