I am on my way home from teaching a two day seminar at the University of Utah Collage of Health. We covered a lot of ground in two days. From culture to contrasts between languages; bilingualism, assessment, and intervention. I learned a lot and the grad students were great. Nice discussions, creative applications of the principles we studied and good detective work.
Between 1995 and 2005 there was a 164% increase in the number of ELLs in Utah, with an increase between 6-10% from 2003 to 2011. Top languages spoken in Utah are (in this order): Spanish, Navajo, Vietnamese, Tonga, and Samoan.
We considered and contrasted English language impairment and Spanish language impairment. After considering how the structure of the language might affect the ways in which language impairment is manifested in these two languages and reasons why this might be, students paired up to look up information on other languages.
They looked up information on Mandarin, Bulgarian, Vietnamese, French, and Arabic among other languages. There was some information on all of these but of course it varied. For French there was some information on the kinds of difficulties that children with primary language impairment (PLI) have in grammar– in many ways these are similar to Spanish. There was little information about language impairment in Bulgarian, but there was information on the grammatical and phonological structure. From this, students made predictions about what might be difficult and why. For Vietnamese there was information on what might not be the thing to look at such as MLU. But, based on some of the similarities with Mandarin, we were able to make some predictions, though these would need to be tested. There is more and more information about Mandarin, things like complex sentences are difficult for children with PLI. Arabic speaking children with PLI made verb agreement errors, often substituting the imperative form.
I was impressed with the amount of information students found in about 20 minutes and how it was possible to make predictions based on comparisons of languages within the same family, some of these predictions need to be tested, but we do know a lot.