Brown Bag Talk by Ms. Mary Lee Lay Choo on 24 October


Speaker: Ms. Mary Lee Lay Choo

Title: “Vocabulary Development of Bilingual Preschoolers in Singapore”

Date: 24 October 2014, 1-2pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


For monolingual children, receptive vocabulary is a good indicator of overall language abilities (Paul, 2001) and predicts literacy skills and academic success. Measuring vocabulary development in bilingual children is more challenging and understanding its role in literacy is rather complex. Few, if any studies have tracked changes in a single setting, using objective, culturally appropriate tests, and contrasting languages. Following a brief introduction to the context and the range of variables employed for this longitudinal study (from Nursery to Kindergarten 2, ages 4-6 years),   the nature of vocabulary development will be described for three contrasting groups of bilingual pre-schoolers living in Singapore: English L1/Mandarin L2 (n=34), Mandarin L1/English L2 (n=31), and Malay L1/English L2 (n=30). For each child, five different measures of vocabulary were collated:  single language receptive vocabulary in L1 and L2, single language expressive vocabulary in L1 and L2, and total conceptual expressive vocabulary (singlets plus doublet overlap in L1/L2). In addition to age and language exposure at home and in kindergarten, the results suggest that the pattern of vocabulary development depends on the relationship between the bilingual child’s two languages, notably phonology.

About the Speaker:

Mary is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology. Her main research interest is language and literacy development of bilingual children. Prior to the Ph.D. programme, she worked at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital assessing children with special needs.


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