Posts Tagged language

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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New Book on ELL Children

The Guilford Press is releasing a new book edited by Marilyn Shatz and  Louise C. Wilkinson called: The Education of English Language Learners: Research to Practice. Lisa Bedore, Karin Boerger, and I have a chapter in it focusing on semantic development in bilinguals. Here’s a list of the chapter titles and authors (we think we’re in good company and we’re looking forward to seeing the book in print): Read the rest of this entry »

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Another Year

I started this blog a year ago on Christmas. We were in Wisconsin and everyone was sick. This year no one is sick and the one family accident we had turned out okay (though it could have been tragic– a helmet saved a life and we’re thankful for that, so wear those helmets!).

My dad died 3 years ago– I miss him. I’ve read that in Mexican tradition the third and final death is when you are no longer remembered. But, how can I forget? My parents are part of who I am– they are a part of me. My dad had qualities that I wish I had. I hope that some part rubbed off on me, but there we are different too. He was outgoing. He could strike up a conversation with anyone. I’m terrible at that, I’m most comfortable with people I know and have a terrible time talking to people I don’t know. But, I do manage to get through lectures and through talks at conferences. Read the rest of this entry »

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Use of the term “foreign languages”

Good morning and a happy Thanksgiving to everyone. This post is to discuss the use of the term “foreign languages”. I must confess that it is becoming a peeve of mine to read references, policy documents, and position papers containing the term “foreign languages”. What are those? Aren’t all languages foreign to someone, depending on who’s using the term?  I advocate that we use the terms “diverse languages”, “non-English languages”, or use descriptors of language families (e.g. Indo-European or more specifically Germanic, Slavic, etc). To refer to English as English and other languages as foreign seems just a wee bit Anglocentric to me and perhaps facilitates the perception that the “foreign language” is somehow a distant idea or an uncommon notion.  The truth is we in the United States represent a diverse and rich linguistic tapestry and many non-English languages are no longer foreign here.

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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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Immigrant Parents and Language Learning

I am the child of immigrants. Like many children growing up in dual language environments, I grew up speaking a home language (Spanish) and although I knew some English, I learned most of my English in school– starting in kindergarten. My mother in fact says we learned English together.  As a child I quickly became aware that the English spoken by my parents and that spoken by the rest of the world was not the same. Today, I came across this article in SF Gate where Jeff Yang talked about conversations with his mother-in-law in context of reading two popular blogs: my mom is a fob and my dad is a fob. I laughed and I cried, what can I say. These are exactly the kinds of interactions I’ve had with my parents and continue to have with my mom. Malapropisms, eggcorns, and spoonerisms— I had to have a whole dictionary for what my parents meant. But, through it all parents convey that they love their children and that they care. While the two fob sites draw on examples of Asian moms and dads– let me tell you this stuff isn’t limited to Asian parents!  There are so many wonderful examples of exactly the kinds of interactions I had with my parents (okay, the accents and words were different but with the same kinds of slips and intents). 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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Using Word Frequency Databases

As administrator of this blog, I am able to look at keywords that people use to find this site. One that comes up often is word frequency databases. I’m always curious about what people are looking for and how they might be using such databases. One corpus I’ve used several times is the one by Mark Davies at BYURead the rest of this entry »

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