Archive for May, 2009

The role of input

I read this news article while ago, January of this year to be exact and I thought it was really interesting. Paul Sulzberger proposes that people can begin to learn a second language by listening to it. This goes against conventional wisdom in teaching a second language. Often, the focus is on meaning and practice. The idea of focusing on meaning and practice makes sense because in learning a second language one can build on what you already know. You can use the ideas and meanings you know in L1 to match with new words (but same meanings) in L2. Similarly, you can use what you know about grammar in L1 to learn L2. Even if the grammar is different (and it is) you at least can think about the fact that there needs to be a way to talk about the past, present, and future. You know that there’s got to be a rule to talk about one thing vs. more than one thing. So, what does just listening do? How can you learn another language without knowing the meaning? Read the rest of this entry »

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Analyzing Phonological Skills in Bilinguals: It’s a Buffet, Not a 7-Course Meal

I’ve often maintained that eliciting speech samples for phonological analysis (whether single or word or connected speech) does not take that much longer for bilinguals than it does for monolinguals (it is somewhat longer, for sure).  What does take longer, however, are the analyses of those samples.  Given that there are almost no standardized assessments for phonological skills of bilinguals, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) must complete a set of broad and deep analyses. 

 These analyses consist of both independent and relational analyses.  Independent analyses are those that do not relate the child’s productions to the adult target.  For example, the clinician should note the child’s phonetic inventory (arranged by place and manner or articulation) listing all the sounds that the child produces whether it’s produced correctly or not.  So, even is a child produces [t] instead of /k/, the child’s ability to produce [t] should be indicated.  After all, for this analysis, it’s what the child can/did do.  Other independent analyses might include:

  • syllable types (e.g., CV, CVC, etc.)
  • syllable shapes (how syllable types combine—CV$CV)
  • word length (e.g., number of syllables per word)

 Relational analyses are those that compare the child’s production to the adult target and might include:

  • Overall consonant accuracy
  • Consonant accuracy by sound class
  • Vowel accuracy
  • Error types using a SODA format: Substitutions, Omissions, Distortions, Additions
  • Percentage-of-occurrence of phonological patterns (e.g., final consonant deletion, stopping)
  • Intelligibility
  • Contextual effects (where does the error occur—initial position, final position, both?)
  • Stimulability (can the child produce the target after a model?)

 SLPs are often overwhelmed initially by the number of analyses I suggest, as there are issues of time and efficiency.  I understand and appreciate those issues.  These analyses should be thought of as a buffet.  Choose the ones that are most satisfying to you.  However, I believe that completing this array of analyses leads to more reliable and valid diagnoses and link clearly and specifically to intervention targets.

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