Factors affecting cross-linguistic transfer of handwriting performance among elementary-school bilingual students

Abeer Salameh-Matar, Nasir Basal, Naomi Weintraub*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Although many countries have diverse populations and bilingual students, most handwriting research focused on monolingual students, and the issue of cross-linguistic transfer gained less attention. Moreover, research on the effect of socio-linguistic factors on cross-linguistic transfer of handwriting is scarce. This study compared handwriting performance of fourth-grade students attending bilingual schools, who wrote in their primary (L1) to second (L2) languages, and the effect of socio-linguistic factors on the transfer of handwriting performance. Method: Ninety-five typically developing fourth-grade students were recruited from three bilingual (Hebrew-Arabic) schools in Israel. Participants were administered a paper-pencil motor coordination task as well as reading and handwriting tests in their L1 and L2. Results: Transfer effect was not uniform and was stronger among the Arabic-speaking group. Reading speed and handwriting automaticity in L2 and handwriting speed in L1 predicted 70% of the variance in L2 handwriting speed. Conclusion: These findings may be explained by the complexity of Arabic orthography, as well as the low level of exposure of the Hebrew-speaking students to Arabic, which is a minority language. These results can guide occupational therapists in addressing factors affecting handwriting difficulties, and in considering socio-linguistic factors necessary for mastering handwriting in teaching a second language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947-954
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2022


  • Bilingualism
  • Cross-Language
  • Elementary school
  • Handwriting


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