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.
The answers are yes, no, maybe, it depends. Last time we talked about “yes.” This time let’s talk about:
Yes, no, maybe, it depends. Read the rest of this entry »
I belong to a Facebook group SLPs for Evidence Based Practice. There is frequent discussion of what works and what doesn’t in intervention and in assessment. My work has often focused on assessment and assessment practices. And, I have to say that it is frustrating to find that something does (or doesn’t) work but that clinical practices take so long to change. So, I wonder what is our obligation in the field to be aware of the evidence? And what is our obligation to make changes in our practices? Read the rest of this entry »
Well, there’s been a number of changes in my life professionally, I don’t really know where to begin. But, I guess I’ll tell you about a couple of things. Read the rest of this entry »
At least harder than I’d thought. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2017
I love the Equality for All quote that says: “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you: It’s not pie.” You can get a t-shirt that says just that. And, it got me thinking about bilingualism. Grosjean uses a beautiful analogy of the hurdler as representing the bilingual, with sprinters and high jumpers representing monolinguals. The hurdler incorporates both of these but isn’t exactly like either one. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been asked this question a couple of times now, the most recent was a few days ago, so I thought I’d write about it here. The bottom line is YES, WITH TRAINING. But, let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »
A question that often comes up about our research is how to apply it clinically. Much of our work is motivated by clinical questions and ultimately we aim to have some clinical solutions. It’s hard sometimes to move directly from research to application. Sometimes the clinical questions we pose have no or very little research available to move to the next step. So, we have to step back and do the more basic descriptive work to understand the nature of bilingualism and of bilingual impairment before we can then more forward again to answer questions about assessment and treatment. Now that we’ve done more work that has implications for assessment and have the BESA available for clinicians we can start to think about more direct application.
I wrote a year ago that we can get the most accurate indicator of language impairment on the BESA when we combine the best language across domains. So, we might combine Spanish morphosyntax with English semantics for a language composite. But, how do you write up results to incorporate into a report?
In a fairly recent paper, we provide some illustrations of how to use test information to make clinical decisions using the BESA. We go through the parent and teacher interview we use to determine possible concern about speech and language ability in each language and how we determine language use and exposure. Finally, we demonstrate how we combine and compare Spanish and English performance across each domain to determine language impairment. I hope these help in writing up your clinical reports.
I have a new paper out that is part of a special issue in the Journal of Communication Disorders. I encourage you to read the whole issue. It is based on an international collaboration where researchers used different methods including interviews, observations, record and policy review to understand current perspectives on bilingualism in children with developmental disabilities. The set of papers is excellent and shows that indeed we as a field have increased and evolved in what we know about bilingualism. Teachers, special educators, parents, and policy makers understand that it is important for children who speak different language at home and at school to be bilingual. There is a growing awareness that bilingualism can be an advantage. This is very good news. For me, I was heartened to know that the message is getting through, that there is a broader awareness, and that there is more attention and effort to putting these ideas into practice.
At the same time, it’s hard to do. We still need to figure out the practicalities of supporting the home and school languages. We need to learn more about what can transfer between languages and how parents and teachers can support and reinforce language learning to best benefit the child. There are many people trying to do what’s best for these kiddos but we need more practical, applicable methods. I talk a little about this and how the knowledge base has increased in my paper. Read it– it’s available through the journal for free till the middle of December, 2016.
We do know (or I hope we know) that exposure to two languages is not bad for us and it could even be good for us. For kids who are in the process of learning two languages, the challenges that bilingualism poses can be desirable. Yes, learning two languages can be hard, but that’s when we develop those brain muscles (figuratively speaking). What happens as children start school and experience changes in the language they hear? What happens as the demands become greater? Read the rest of this entry »