Posts Tagged language

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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Children’s use of Spanish in the U.S. Context

In this paper, we studied Spanish-English bilinguals between the ages of 4 and 7 years old. We were interested in the relationship between bilingual children’s age, their productivity in Spanish (as indexed by MLU) and their accuracy in morpheme production. We found that age didn’t predict correct production of grammatical forms but MLU did. The grammatical forms that children demonstrated mastery on (80% or more accurate) was related to MLU. We also found that relative difficulty for grammatical forms was similar for different levels of Spanish fluency. Let’s break it down.

Here you can see what forms children produced accurately (80% or more correct) as related to their MLU.

This graphic shows the relative difficulty in children’s productives of these forms. These are based on averages from 228 Spanish-English bilingual children between the ages of 4 and 7. Easy forms are those that children on average produced correctly about 70% or more of the time. Medium forms are those children produced correctly about 60% of the time. Finally, the hard items are those that children produced correctly about 40-50% of the time.

I hope that this information is useful for those who work with Spanish-English speaking children.

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We Can’t WAIT!

There’s been a lot of discussion concerning COVID19 and schooling from home. In the special education domain, at least in speech-language pathology, we seem to be all over the place. Not that it’s easy it’s not. But, I hear a lot of comments and reports that school districts are suspending special education testing:

  • till schools open again
  • because standardized tests aren’t standardized for on-line administration
  • because we’re not comfortable
  • because we think that it can’t be valid

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Do bilinguals have to be tested in both languages? Part 2

The answers are yes, no, maybe, it depends. Last time we talked about “yes.” This time let’s talk about:

  • no

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Bilingual Assessment and Language Dominance: We need to MOVE ON

A long time ago (about 25 to 30 years ago) I learned that bilingual children should be tested in their dominant or home language. The prevailing view then was that if you tested in the weaker language you wouldn’t be letting the child demonstrate what they knew. I think that this part is true. The other part of this perspective is that there wouldn’t be anything in the weaker language that wouldn’t be represented in the stronger language. I don’t believe that this part is true. It’s the 21st century… we know better.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Independent Research using the BESA

My collaborators and I did a number of studies of morphosyntax, semantics, phonology and pragmatics that informed development of the final version of the BESA. We’ve since done other studies using the BESA as an indicator of language impairment or phonological impairment. In addition, it is important to have independent studies of the BESA that evaluate its effectiveness. There are a few studies so far that use the BESA, and I hope soon there will be more. Here is what I think is only a partial list:  Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy New Year

It’s been a busy year., and we have more to come. This year one of our big accomplishments was to launch the BESA, a speech and language test for children 4 to 7. It was a long project, but we are very satisfied with the test and how well it works to identify speech and language impairment in bilingual children. A serous problem in the field has been that there are so few instruments to properly identify impairments in bilinguals. There result is that these kids are assessed with instruments that have not been proven to work well with bilinguals. Worse some may overidentify children as having impairment when they are in the process of learning English as a second language. Another problem is that these kids can be missed altogether. Sometimes district personnel will wait for the child to have enough English to test them. Waiting can result in falling further behind because services that might have helped are not provided.

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Looking Back, Looking Ahead

The other day I read a post by Nicholas Miller on the Speech and Language Sciences @ Newcastle University blog. He talked about the reprinting of his book, “Bilingualism and Language Disability” in psychology press’ classic revivals series. He reminisced about how the 1984 book came to be in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

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SXSW

This week was SXSW in Austin. I usually try to go see as many movies as possible. It was a lot of fun running from one independent movie to another, but I did have to get some work done so my time was somewhat divided. One of the films I really enjoyed was “Sound City” directed by David Grohl. The movie is about the history of a recording studio in Van Nuys, CA. Nirvana recorded their breakthrough album, Nevermind, at Sound City, along with many rock and roll greats including, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, and many others. I enjoyed listening to the clips of music (and there were a lot) as well as their stories from their years at the studio. The people who recorded there and the folks who ran the studio obviously had a lot of good memories and high regard for each other. Read the rest of this entry »

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Learning Words in Two Languages

It’s interesting to understand bilingual language acquisition in the context of existing theories. This helps to better understand and interpret findings, and how well findings fit (or don’t) a theory helps to refine it. When there is an accumulation of findings that fit well, then we can better predict what might be going on even if there is little data.

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