Bilingual Language Impairment

This week I’ve been working on the background section for the BESA (cautiously moving toward publication, we’ll announce it when we have a publisher). I’m amazed at what we knew (or didn’t) when we first proposed the project. We wrote up the project proposal summarizing probably everything we knew about bilingual language impairment. At that time, most of the available reports were small n studies and case studies including those by Raquel Anderson. This gave us some indicators of what might be areas of difficulty for bilinguals with language impairment. We also looked to the then emerging crosslinguistic literature on language impairment. Most of this was based on work by Larry Leonard and colleagues.

Some of the work with bilinguals was on the errors that typical children made which overlapped with those made by monolingual English speakers with language impairment. So, we knew we needed to try to look for common errors and to compare children by level of language exposure. We were greatly influenced here by Valdes and Figueroa.

We didn’t know whether bilinguals with language impairment would look like monolinguals with language impairment or not. The answer is they do and they don’t. Language of exposure matters and the amount of exposure matters as well. It’s exciting to see how much more is known in the field and it’s great to see convergence of our findings and that in other labs including work by Kathy Kohnert and work by Laida Restrepo. We’re also starting to see convergence with other language pairs as well.

We continue to make progress, although sometimes it seems very little, but when I look back to where we started, I do see that we know a lot more.

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