This study aims to compare Singapore primary students’ English and Chinese narrative abilities from a developmental perspective. Little research has been done to characterise students’ bilingual competence in Singapore. Thirty-six students from Primary One, Three and Five, from four neighbourhood schools participated in the study. Their home languages are English, Chinese or bilingual. The participants read a series of 6 pictures designed to trigger participants’ narration. Each participant told a story while referring to the pictures in both Mandarin Chinese and English, with a counterbalanced order. Narrative ability was measured by narrative structure, temporality, and evaluative expressions. The participants’ performance was first compared across two languages, followed by comparison on the performance across different age groups within one language. Then, the developmental patterns revealed by various age groups were compared across two languages. The results showed that as age increased, participants’ narrative abilities developed in both Chinese and English. Older participants were able to narrate a story with information more thematically organised than the younger participants. Older participants’ were better able to switch the perspective of narrating the story, describing the characters’ mood, cognitive activities and language. In general, English narrative ability is more advanced developed than Chinese narrative ability. Implications for teaching are discussed.
Jing Yan, Singapore Centre for Chinese Language, Singapore
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