Analysis of writing structures used by incipient Spanish bilingual writers when composing in Spanish and English

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Language and Literature|Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Elementary




To be a literate writer, one must organize ideas and structure them into comprehensible units of meaning. Organizing and structuring skills are learned culturally and socially. Writers working in their native language (L$\sb1$) have the advantage of expressing themselves in the context of familiar structures. Writers expressing themselves in a second language must manage all the different organizational patterns in the new language. The added cognitive load of having to translate to a new language may interfere with efforts to organize writing. Spanish-speaking student immigrants to the United States may face this problem.^ This study examined the writing of fifteen incipient Spanish-bilingual elementary school students, from one fifth and one sixth grade bilingual classroom, to determine the organizing structures they use in writing in Spanish and in English in narrative and exposition genres. By scrutinizing students' writing in both languages and analyzing it for organizing structures, the researcher was able to identify and compare the structures the writers use in Spanish and English. The researcher analyzed written products for content organization, using Langer's adaptation of Meyer's Prose Analysis System which describes the way content is organized in a piece of writing. A Test of Equality of Proportions was used to test for significant differences in the use of lower level predicates in Spanish and English writing for reports and stories. Wilcoxon sign-ranked tests for paired data were used to determine the effects of genre and language on the number of words, number of sentences, number of T-units, number of words per T-unit, and the deepest and broadest levels of content structure created by the subjects in each writing sample.^ There were no significant differences found in the Test of Equality of Proportions. There were no significant differences in eleven of twelve variables tested by the Wilcoxon sign-rank test. The one significant difference occurred in the number of words subjects used in Spanish and English reports. The results of this study indicate that there is no significant difference in the organizational structures incipient Spanish bilinguals employ when writing in Spanish and English in narrative and exposition genres. ^