By age three to four, monolingual Spanish-speaking children master gender marking and agreement in noun phrases. It is unclear whether bilingual children acquire gender marking rules by the same age as do monolingual children, and whether they in fact ever acquire these rules with 100% accuracy. This study tested sixty 6 to 11-year-old bilingual children attending a Spanish-English two-way immersion school in Chicago divided into two main age groups: younger (ages 6—8) and older (ages 9—11). Thirty-eight children came from Spanish-speaking homes (heritage speakers) and 22 came from English-speaking homes (L2 learners of Spanish). A group of 29 monolingual children from Mexico matched for age formed the comparison group. The children were first asked to narrate the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and then they were asked to complete an elicited picture description task with colored animals. Results of the two tasks showed that the bilingual children produced more gender errors than the monolingual children. In general, heritage speakers were more accurate than L2 learners, although there were differences by age of onset of bilingualism in both groups. Crucially, there was no evidence of language loss with increased age. Our results suggest that a dual immersion school curriculum is conducive to both language acquisition and maintenance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-328
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • L2 learners
  • dual immersion
  • heritage speakers
  • language loss/maintenance
  • production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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