Archive for category speech sounds

Does language and experience matter in NWR?

It is well known that different languages have different phonological structures. Some have lots of sounds put together in certain ways, other languages have fewer sounds and these go together perhaps in other ways. Comparing Spanish and English is interesting in the US context because Spanish is the second most common language after English. The majority of English language learners in the US speak Spanish as a first language.  Read the rest of this entry »


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Testing Speech in Languages other than English: What’s the Evidence?

There’s a new paper out in AJSLP by Sharynne McLeod and Sarah Verdon.  I think it’s a great resource for those of us who do bilingual assessment. Additionally, I think it’s an excellent example of how to review and select tests to use for diagnostic purposes. Over the last 10 or so years, there’s been a growing emphasis on evidence-based practice in speech-language pathology. We can’t simply use the tests we’ve always used because we are familiar and comfortable with them. We need to be able to justify our selections, and make our selections based on the best available scientific evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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When working with bilingual children, it is a matter of course that one will need to translate from one language to another. Children who are English language learners may need instructions or directions translated so that they can know what to do. Curricula may need to be translated to maximize learning. Tests are also translated for ease of assessment of knowledge in a given domain. In the area of speech and language assessment however, translation is not the best option.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Bilingual English Spanish Assessment

We’re very excited to let everyone know that now, after a number of years of development and testing the BESA is available to speech-language pathologists.


My co-authors and I developed the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA) in response to a critical need for valid, reliable instruments to assessment of speech and language ability in Spanish-English bilingual children. It focuses on children (ages 4 years, 0 months through 6 years, 11 months) who have varying levels of Spanish-English bilingualism. BESA was specifically developed to determine if speech and/or language errors observed in some young children were due to limited exposure to English or to a language impairment. We know that with time, children with typical development will learn a second language. But, at the same time, early intervention for children who have speech and language impairment is critical.

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Phonology and Grammar in Bilingual Children

Is speech sound development related to grammatical development in bilinguals? In a new paper by Cooperson, Bedore & Peña in Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, we report on a couple of studies where we explored the relationship between children’s articulation accuracy in Spanish and English as related to grammatical production in both languages. 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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Bilingual Before Birth

I thought this was a cool study reported by Discovery News and AFP last week. I haven’t been able to find the original study to read– or at least to link to the abstract, but it’s by Janet Werker and colleagues and it appears in Psychological Science. Basically, they found that babies who had been exposed to two languages in utero were sensitive to those two languages after birth. In contrast, babies who’d only heard one language were only sensitive to that language. Read the rest of this entry »

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Regional Dialects and L2 Learners

My original intent was to write about our new article coming out in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (shameless plug I know), but this news article about L2 learners learning to distinguish spoken words by reading caught my eye.  

In the original study published in PLoS ONE the authors argue that seeing a written word in addition to hearing it helps listeners to figure out what the word is (when it’s distorted or an element is missing). This helps listeners within a language understand another regional dialect (say an American English speaker hearing Australian English or a Mexican Spanish speaker listening to Argentine Spanish). Of course some of the differences are lexical but many are about the sounds and stress patterns. 

The authors proposed that this same strategy could be used for second language learners who were used to another regional variety of that language. They had Dutch speakers who knew English watch excerpts of TV shows in Australian English or Scottish English (the participants indicated they had not spent significant time in either country). Three conditions were used: no subtitles, subtitles in English, subtitles in Dutch with half the participants watching Scottish and the other half Australian excerpts.

The Dutch participants were tested after watching 25 minutes of an episode. They listened to sentences from Scottish English and Australian English and had to repeat them.  One quarter of the sentences were from the show they had watched, 1/4 were in the same dialect, but hadn’t heard the particular sentences before, and the rest (1/2) were from the other dialect. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Google goes Hawaiian

I read today that the Hawaiian language was added to google. Probably, that caught my eye because we went to Hawaii for 10 days this summer. It was a wonderful, relaxing, and fun trip. We even had daydreams that I could go to Hawaii to study bilingualism there. Hawaiian is part of the Polynesian language family. It had been on the decline, but through efforts to teach the language in schools the number of speakers has increased. Both Hawaiian and English are both official languages in Hawaii. We enjoyed the sounds and multisyllabic words of the language and it was certainly a challenge to my working memory.

Oh well, seeing that I don’t really know enought about the language to study Hawaiian-English bilinguals, I’ll have to stick to Spanish-English bilingualism (and other languages my colleagues know about). Unless of course there’s someone out there to collaborate with.

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