Posts Tagged language

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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What language should I start in?

A question that comes up frequently among bilingual speech-language pathologists who are testing children in two languages is what language to start testing in. There aren’t really clear guidelines. Some people advocate starting in the child’s home language; others suggest starting in the child’s stronger language; still others say that SLPs should follow the child’s lead and start in the language the child feels most comfortable in. We’ve tested many many kids over the last few years in English and Spanish. Sometimes we start in English other times we start in Spanish, and we do this regardless of what the child’s better or home language is. The reason we do this is so that we aren’t favoring one language over the other. For research purposes this makes sense because we’re interested in group data and we really don’t know what each child’s best language is. But, for clinical testing we are interested in individual performance and we want to get the best performance from kids as possible– if not the best performance at least information that is representative of their capabilities. And it’s for this reason that the question comes up. Maybe it does matter what language we start in. Read the rest of this entry »

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Profiles of Bilingual Language Development and Impairment

Over the last few days I’ve gotten a number of questions about how to distinguish between language impairment and normal development in bilingual children probably due to the feature story on the UT Home page last week. It’s been great to hear from bilingual speech pathologists from around Texas and other areas of the country. I think that many are struggling to deal with the same questions that I’ve been pursuing with my colleagues. That is, how do we know what disorder looks like in bilinguals; and what can we do to document these distinctions? Read the rest of this entry »

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Support Bilingualism in the Home

I thought this was an interesting post on babble, the author discusses the advantages for children of having a nanny that speaks another language. This is a totally new take on bilingualism and one that isn’t often heard. Some people anyway, are getting the message that it could be an advantage for their children to know another language.

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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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