Archive for category grammar

Bilingual Profiles

One of the questions that we often ask ourselves when doing bilingual research and when conducting bilingual assessment is how to describe and characterize children’s bilingualism. This question is important for making educational decisions that involve language of instruction. For assessment and diagnosis of speech and language impairment it is critical that we document children’s bilingual profiles. But, it’s not as easy as we would like. We explore some of these issues in an article that appears in  Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are we what we say?

I’ve continued to read Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate. Because it’s non-fiction, I tend to read it in fits and spurts and I jump around from chapter to chapter. I also have pink post-its stuck in pages here and there– I almost never do this with books I read for pleasure (maybe it reminds me of work– where I use virtual post-its in iAnnotate). Anyway, on page 286 here is what Tan writes:

Even more dangerous, in my view, is the temptation to compare both language and behavior in translation.

Here, I think she is talking about making assumptions about what someone thinks based on what they say– or more specifically, based on errors they make in their second language. At the same time, I’m intrigued by the pairing of language and behavior in the context of translation. You see, language is more than the words– more than linguistic equivalence. It is how those words are used in a given cultural context. How those words may or may not match up with actions, facial expressions, and gestures. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bilingualism does NOT increase risk for language impairment

I’ve been saying this for years. My colleague Mary Anne Nericcio says she’s been saying this for 30 years– I guess I’ve been saying it for about that long too! As part of our Diagnostic Markers of Language Impairment in Bilingual Children project, funded by the NIH (NIDCD) we screened some 1200 children who spanned the range from monolingual Spanish speakers to monolingual English speakers and looked to see whether children in the middle (bilinguals) were more likely to fall in the risk range more often than monolinguals. They don’t.

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Development of Language Assessment Tools for Languages other than English

The last couple of days I’ve been Newcastle, UK attending the child language seminar. I gave a keynote and I found myself thinking I was Sally Field, …they like me they really like me. I spoke on dynamic assessment and presented preliminary results from our diagnostic markers of language impairment study. The bottom line is that dynamic assessment appears to work to differentiate  bilingual children with and without language impairment. like with previous studies of monolingual children, modifiability is the best predictor of language ability. Read the rest of this entry »

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From Two to Three

Is it easier to learn another language if you already know two? I’ve always suspected this was the case. First, in my own experience learning French in high school some things just seemed to come easier. I remember I used a reflexive one day and my teacher wanted to know where I had learned that since we hadn’t gotten to reflexive yet. To me, it “sounded” right. Probably because Spanish uses pretty much the same structure in this case. Of course I could have had an advantage for French learning because I knew Spanish and not because of bilingualism. But, I feel like I can throw Spanish at my bilingual friends even if their other language isn’t Spanish. I sensed that they “got it” in a way that monolinguals didn’t. So, it’s a question I’ve sometimes wondered about. Read the rest of this entry »

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What parents & teachers know

In our role as speech language pathologists, we often rely on reports from teachers and from parents to inform our clinical decisions. When the child is bilingual, in addition to the usual questions about development, language milestones, and language use/demands, we need to find out what language(s) is used and when. Part of our training is to learn to incorporate this information into our clinical decisions. We learn that parents know their child best, they are with them the most. Teachers also develop unique insights to the children in their classroom and they see them every day. SLPs usually only get a couple of hours at most in which to make these decisions and so must rely on information we get from parents and teachers. At the same time though, sometimes this information is suspect. I’m not sure why. Most studies comparing parent and professional observations of milestones such as language show that parents are very accurate. But, they aren’t quite as accurate in recalling developmental information and are less accurate over time. Studies of bilingual children show that parents can accurately make judgements about language ability and language dominance.

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Making Clinical Decisions About Young Bilingual Children

I’m often asked my opinion whether or not young bilingual children have language delays or impairment. How can we tell impairment and normal bilingualism apart. And what about language use for these kids? Should parents use more than one language– especially if they have language delays or language impairment?

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Starting and Building a Second Language

We have a fairly new article accepted for publication in the International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. Even though it’s not yet published it’s available through the Journal’s forthcoming articles list.

As part of an NIH funded project, we screened about 750 children (actually we now have screened 1200 kiddos, but when we wrote the article were still in the process of screening so the analysis is based on the numbers to that point–still it’s a lot of kids). We developed a screener based on the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment that we’d previously worked on. The screener is called the Bilingual English Spanish Oral Screening (get it? get it??).  It takes about 15-20 minutes to give in both languages (compared to the full version of the test this is about 1/4 of the time). The BESOS includes morphosyntax and semantics sections. If you want to know more about the development of the BESA (from which the BESOS is derived see here and here for morphosyntax; and here for semantics. (And yes, the BESA (but not the screener) includes phonology and pragmatics).

Anyway, in this study we gave the screener to all the kids regardless of whether they thought they didn’t know English or Spanish. Children were preschool and kindergarten age (between 4;6 and 5;6). We did stop testing a subsection if they gave us no response to 5 items in a row (we’re not totally cruel, it’s just that sometimes kids know more than they think– more than their parents and teachers think too!). We were interested in seeing what factors were associated with knowing something, anything in a language. We also wanted to know what factors were associated with higher scores. Read the rest of this entry »

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Beyond Language

 I read a very interesting article today in the NY Times. To me this work emphasizes how and what is communicated in different languages. It’s not just about knowing the words to say in another language (although that’s critical too). It’s about the experiences that makes us who we are as individuals and as part of a community.

The language we use reflects our knowledge about how to say things. It involves the semantics, grammar, and pragmatics of the language we learned. And while we often focus on differences in words and grammar across two languages I think that often that cross-linguistic pragmatics is overlooked in that context. That’s not to say that it’s not thought about– it is. But, it’s usually thought about separately from words and grammar. In fact there is a rich literature (probably in some cases more well-established literature) on cross-cultural differences. Check out West-Ed’s publications for some very practical applications. So, how does it all come together?

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Nonword repetition in bilinguals

We completed this study a couple of years ago but it always takes some time to get things written up and then submitted and so on. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating that the process takes so long. There are lots of papers I see at conferences that I might wait a couple of years before I see the full paper in print. It’s the same with our stuff of course, sometimes what we present at a conference is only one analysis or is with fewer participants than the final paper. The revision process usually helps to focus and strengthen the paper, but that also takes time.

Anyway, this is a long introduction to writing about a paper by Summers, Bohman, Gillam, Peña, & Bedore titled “Bilingual performance on nonword repetition in Spanish and English” in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. In this paper we tested bilingual children on nonword repetition tasks in both their languages. We also tested some kids on the monolingual end of the continuum on both sets of words. The words we used are those developed by Dollaghan & Campbell (for English) and Janet Calderon (for Spanish). Read the rest of this entry »

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