Elizabeth D. Peña
I'm a professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of California, Irvine. I study bilingualism in children mainly, but have branched out to look at bilingualism in young adults. In the area of bilingualism I'm mainly interested in how people who have exposure to more than one language lexicalize, organize, and access words in each of their languages and how exposure to one language influences performance in the other language. I'm also interested in measurement and assessment practices. Here, my focus is on developing ways to determine language differences vs. language disorders.
When we test bilingual children we need to be able to do so in both of their languages. We can to look at speech and language in each of their two languages and we use this information to determine if their language production is like that of their typical (bilingual peers).
In the area of lexical-semantics we know that children who have exposure to two languages often show patterns of lexical knowledge consistent with their divided exposure. They may know home words in the home language and school words in the second language. It makes it difficult to test in only one language, but how do we take account of both their languages?
One of the observations we’ve made in many years of testing bilingual kids is that it is difficult at times for them to switch between languages– especially when they’ve been using English in diagnostics. This doesn’t mean of course that kids don’t codeswitch, they do and they do so during testing, but switching between languages on demand is hard.
Cognates are really interesting words that share meaning and sound the same across languages. Languages that share the same roots also have a large number of cognates because of their shared histories. Spanish and English share a large number of cognates.
We’ve studied cognate recognition in young children. In that study of kindergarten and first grade children, we found that Spanish dominant children and English dominant children scored similarly on a receptive vocabulary test given in English. But, they showed different patterns of response. Those who were Spanish dominant were more likely to know the cognates– even those that were above their age level. English dominant kids tended to know non-cognates. So, consistent with other studies, we found a cognate advantage for Spanish-speaking children learning English as a second language. In a recent study, we were interested in whether bilingual children with DLD would show a similar cognate advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
We’ve (as a field) have known for about 20 years that single word vocabulary tests whether they are receptive or expressive tests are poor indicators of developmental language disorders (DLD). At the same time, these tests are very often used by SLPs as part of a diagnostic. They are easy to give, quick, and highly reliable. It’s hard to make an error in administration or scoring on these tests. But, reliability is not enough (neither are the other reasons). Even if it only takes 5 minutes and the score is a perfect representation of what the child can do it doesn’t mean that a low score indicates impairment or that a high score indicates typical development. As far as domains of language go– children with DLD do pretty well with vocabulary at the single word level. It’s semantics (connections among words) that they have difficulty with. Read the rest of this entry »
I keep hearing these stories and it’s infuriating! There’s no evidence that bilingualism is confusing and no evidence that bilingualism makes developmental language disorder worse so stop it! Read the rest of this entry »
I’m working on a paper that focuses on language dominance, proficiency and exposure. I’ve written about these definitions before. Here, I want to think about how it is we capture this information.
There are a number of really nice surveys and questionnaires that have been developed that help to document this information. These include L1 and L2 age of acquisition; educational history in each language, rating of proficiency in each language. Sometimes this is broken out into speaking, listening, reading and writing. Some questionnaires ask about what language is more proficient, and may ask for what purpose(s) each language is used. This information is designed to get at the question of how language is used and how proficient an individual might be across situations. Read the rest of this entry »
You know I’m gonna say no. But, it’s important to establish what does happen and to do so with data. After several studies we have enough data to look at this question more carefully with a set of children with developmental language disorder (aka: language impairment; specific language impairment; or primary language impairment) who had varying levels of exposure to Spanish and English. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2018
Some thoughts about getting a Ph.D.
It’s that time of year when students are making decisions about where they are going to go for graduate school and others are thinking of applying to graduate programs in the next round this coming fall. In CSD there is a severe shortage of new Ph.D.s to take on faculty positions. So for me it’s important to recruit and train future CSD faculty. I’ve worked with a number of students who have completed the degree and have gone on to successful careers as faculty and leaders in the profession. As you may know I’m now at the University of California, Irvine and Lisa Bedore is moving to Temple University. We both remain committed to helping to train the next generation of Ph.D.s in the field. Below, I give some of my thoughts about the Ph.D. and finding a program that is right for you and your interests.
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Recently, I participated in a roundtable discussion through TCU on the topic of dynamic assessment and translanguaging. My topic was dynamic assessment. But, I was really struck by the notion of translanguaging.
It was an interesting discussion about how to provide support to children in both languages and allow them to have access to both of their languages to maximize opportunities for language interaction. You might want to read more about translanguaging using the link above and also here. I think that translanguaging is a powerful way to support linguistic development and access in bilingual youth.
The answers are yes, no, maybe, it depends. Last time we talked about “yes.” This time let’s talk about: