Bilingual Research Needs

I’m at the airport in Washington DC after participating in a workshop at tha NIH on dual language learners. We talked about the state of the art. What’s cool is that there has been so much progress. We know that bilingualism isn’t bad for you and that in fact it could be good for you. We have better ideas about how to diagnose bilinguals with language impairment. At least in some languages. We know about what works for Spanish and English. We have emerging data for Mandarin-English and Vietnamese-English as well as other language pairs. We have an emerging picture about bilingual development in two languages. 

But, there’s still a lot we don’t know. We don’t fully understand how changes in the linguistic environment affect child performance on language measures. We still don’t have a God handle in intervention for bilinguals with langquge impairment.  Do we treat in one language or both? Do we use translanguaging approaches?  

I don’t think we fully understand how bilingualism affects the brain. Nor do we know how the environment shapes the brains of children with language impairment.

We heard about reading disorder and mechanisms associated with dyslexia. Children can and do learn to read in two languages but we don’t really understand how those languages interact and how languages that have different writing systems interact in the bilingual brain. 

Even though we’ve made progress in identification of impairment we don’t do such a great job across languages and at all ages. 

So we know a lot we have a ways to go 

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  1. #1 by irynajanke on October 10, 2016 - 7:32 am

    Hi, I am working on my master thesis, my topic is degree of bilingualism and its influence on cognitive skills. I am searching for a method to assess the degree of bilingualism and language dominance. Since I did not find anything suitable I used my own method. Iread very often that self-reports are a good to assess language dominance, for example, but since I am working with children between 9 and 15 years old, I do not think this will work for me. What is your opinion on this mater? Do you know of any methods to assess language dominannce or degree of bilingualism?
    Best regards,
    Iryna Janke

  2. #2 by Elizabeth D. Peña on October 13, 2016 - 9:00 am

    that’s a tricky age I think– we use the BIOS (Bilingual Input Output Survey) to determine degree of exposure and use of each language. We ask the parents to give us information hour-by-hour about who the child is with and what language each person (child and whoever they are interacting with) what language they use. I think that you could probably do this with a child as young as 9– for sure by teenage years.

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