The development of literacy skills in children learning English as an additional language

The 2nd joint OES/HKU (Hong Kong University) Lecture was delivered by Victoria Murphy, Professor of Applied Linguistics, Department of Education, University of Oxford at the University of Hong Kong on Friday 22nd July 2016

The event was organised  by Steven SK Kwok, OES Country Champion for Hong Kong and chaired by Dr Yuen Li Lo, alumna of the Department of Education and Assistant Professor and Programme Director, MA(TESOL) Division of English Language Education, University of Hong Kong. An abstract and further information about the speaker can be found below.

Following the lecture, OES members and friends – including the family and current and former students of Professor Murphy – gathered at a popular restaurant in Hong Kong for a celebratory reunion dinner.

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International studies of student achievement have consistently identified that children from ethnic minorities tend to underperform on core academic outcomes relative to majority language speakers (OECD-PISA, 2003). The academic achievement of minority language learners varies considerably (Strand, Malmberg & Hall, 2015), with the widest gaps between minority language learners and native-speaking children in primary school, and with children who are a) newly arrived, b) have not had continuous education through the majority language, and c) who have weaker fluency in the majority language (often English). In this talk I will first explore some of these findings to identify those sub-groups of children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) who are most at risk of academic difficulty followed by a discussion of research on EAL children’s vocabulary and literacy development. Research across a range of international contexts has illustrated that minority language learners tend to have under-developed vocabulary relative to native speakers. I will discuss two particular aspects of vocabulary that are problematic for children with EAL – collocations and idioms – and discuss research which illustrates that these lexical forms make their own unique contribution to EAL children’s reading comprehension performance.

About the speaker

Vicki Murphy profile2 cropped webprofile

Victoria Murphy is Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Department of Education, University of Oxford. She is the Course Coordinator of the MSc in Applied Linguistics/Second Language Acquisition and the convener of the Applied Linguistics Research Group as well as the ‘Research in English as an Additional Language (REAL)’ research group. She has degrees in Linguistics, Psychology and also in Education, hence her work typically straddles these areas, with a focus on child L2/FL development, EAL children’s language and literacy development and early years EAL and FL learning. She has been published in a wide range of applied linguistics journals and is the author of ‘Second Language Learning in the Early School Years: Trends and Contexts’ published by the Oxford University Press and is lead editor of ‘Early Childhood Education in English for Speakers of Other Languages’ published by The British Council.

Lecture photo 2 webpage