Intervention in Spanish leads to gains in Spanish & English

My colleagues and I have completed a series of studies looking at whether we can promote between-language transfer and how much the language of intervention matters. In a couple of studies, we’ve compared language of instruction assigning bilinguals to either Spanish or English intervention conditions and in one study we assigned children to Spanish or English then switched language of intervention halfway through. We see evidence of between language transfer in these conditions.

In another two-part (working on part three) series we’ve been interested in whether doing intervention in the child’s home language (Spanish) leads to gains in Spanish or both Spanish and English. In one study, we looked at grammatical interventions and I talked about that last time I posted. We used broad principles of learning to plan for between-language grammatical transfer so that we could maximize impact between the two languages. You can read that paper here.

What about semantics and narratives? Our intervention was a book-based intervention where we worked on building semantic networks related to the books’ themes. We used target words to build children’s verb and noun phrases. And we used principles of mediated learning to teach children about story structure, characters, settings, actions, and resolutions.

We looked at three measures for this, a single-word vocabulary test (EOWPVT-SBE), a semantics test (BESA), and a narrative test (TNL) administered in Spanish and English. Our results demonstrate gains on the narrative and semantic tasks. While gains were greater in Spanish (between 1 and 1.3 SD), which was the language of instruction, we also saw significant gains in English (between .3 and .67 SD).

What were the elements? We leveraged meaning and tried to target concepts that could transfer. In the semantics domain, about 1/3 of the words we selected were Spanish-English cognates. We focused on strategies to help children make connections among words and word meanings using semantic maps, definitions, and making connections between what they already knew, wanted to know, and what they learned (KWL). For the narrative intervention portion, we targeted story elements, used a book-walk approach, and supported story predictions.

This is a small study, with only 13 children, but we are adding to the knowledge base around bilingual interventions and ways we can better support between-language transfer.


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  1. #1 by Fe D Murray on August 15, 2022 - 6:54 am

    The link is not working! But what a great find. I’m looking forward to reading more!

    Fe Murray, EdD, CCC-SLP Associate Clinical Professor Northern Arizona University ________________________________

  2. #2 by Diana Castillo on August 15, 2022 - 7:17 am

    Thank you for the post. The link isn’t working however. Is there another place I could find it?

    Thank you,

    Diana Castillo M.S., C.C.C-SLP

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information in this email, including any attachments, are for the intended person(s) only and may contain private and confidential information. Any viewing or sharing of this information by anyone who is not meant to receive it is not allowed. If you were not intended to receive this email, you may not print, copy or share this information. If you have received this email in error, please reply to the sender and let them know, or delete the email.


  3. #3 by Elizabeth D. Peña on August 15, 2022 - 10:02 am

  4. #4 by Elizabeth D. Peña on August 15, 2022 - 10:59 am

  5. #5 by Elizabeth D. Peña on August 15, 2022 - 10:59 am

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