Working With Young Dual Language Learners

Last week I participated in a round table meeting for the Center for Early Care and Education Research – Dual Language Learners (CECER-DLL). It was a lot of fun and the participant list read like a who’s who in bilingual language acquisition– so it was really great and I got to learn a lot.

One thing that was really striking was the level of passion and commitment among the members of the team. Even when we didn’t agree– the focus was on truly understanding the context(s) in which young children are learning two languages and to understand what factors facilitate learning. It’s important to know what helps support children’s learning so that they can have positive academic outcomes.

One of the things that was disappointing is reports that parents are still being told that they should speak English rather than their home language. This is in spite of the fact that most of the research clearly shows that continued support of the first language in early childhood helps children have better English language outcomes.

One thing that the center is doing is publishing research briefs that focus on systematic reviews of the literature. These are important and provide a way of understanding the state of the art in this area. It’s also a good resource for parents, teachers, and researchers. The reviews also serve to point out what we still don’t know. But it is exciting– we know a lot more that we used to and that’s progress.


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  1. #1 by eacrisfield on August 15, 2012 - 12:10 am

    Reblogged this on onraisingbilingualchildren and commented:
    In this post, there is a link to “research briefs”. If you are interested in young bilinguals, you may find something here of interest – they are writing short(ish) documents synthesizing the research or status on a variety of topics relating to bilingual learners – enjoy some light summer reading!

  2. #2 by Courtney on August 15, 2012 - 10:15 am

    I just had a Spanish-speaking family tell me again today that their pediatrician told them to speak only one language at home to their children to avoid confusion and further delays. It’s very frustrating that this inaccurate information is being disseminated to parents. While I am aware of all of the research out there that shows the benefits of maintaining the home language and raising a child as a bilingual, I’m wondering if anyone knows of any parent-friendly materials that I could share with this and other families.

  3. #3 by Elizabeth D. Peña on August 15, 2012 - 10:39 am

    That’s a tough one Courtney. And it’s something that we discussed in the meeting– that WE know that bilingualism isn’t confusing for children, most of the world is bilingual, but the word doesn’t seem to have gotten out to pediatricians, teachers, school administrators, SLPs, parents, etc. The research briefs I linked has some information that would be helpful, but doesn’t directly address one language or two. We published an article on risk for impairment in preschoolers that we discuss here:
    We found that bilingualism didn’t increase risk, in fact we got results that indicate perhaps it REDUCES risk for impairment. So, the information is out there here and there.
    If anyone knows of parent-friendly materials, I’d love to know about them!

  4. #4 by Martha on September 17, 2012 - 3:03 am

    Interesting article. Thanks for that. I’m only at the beginning of our bilingual journey, my children being 2 and 10 months old, but I’ve already had lots of worries and doubts. It’s always good to get somebody else’s perspective, research and comments.

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