Posts Tagged research

Bilingual Research Needs

I’m at the airport in Washington DC after participating in a workshop at tha NIH on dual language learners. We talked about the state of the art. What’s cool is that there has been so much progress. We know that bilingualism isn’t bad for you and that in fact it could be good for you. We have better ideas about how to diagnose bilinguals with language impairment. At least in some languages. We know about what works for Spanish and English. We have emerging data for Mandarin-English and Vietnamese-English as well as other language pairs. We have an emerging picture about bilingual development in two languages. 

But, there’s still a lot we don’t know. We don’t fully understand how changes in the linguistic environment affect child performance on language measures. We still don’t have a God handle in intervention for bilinguals with langquge impairment.  Do we treat in one language or both? Do we use translanguaging approaches?  

I don’t think we fully understand how bilingualism affects the brain. Nor do we know how the environment shapes the brains of children with language impairment.

We heard about reading disorder and mechanisms associated with dyslexia. Children can and do learn to read in two languages but we don’t really understand how those languages interact and how languages that have different writing systems interact in the bilingual brain. 

Even though we’ve made progress in identification of impairment we don’t do such a great job across languages and at all ages. 

So we know a lot we have a ways to go 


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The Role of Mentors

We are all shaped by our experiences. In academic and professional contexts, we are additionally shaped by our teachers, professors, collaborators, and mentors. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had mentors at different stages of my career. During my undergraduate years at the University of Redlands, I had the privilege of having wonderful teachers in a context that was both nurturing and challenging. One of these mentors was Judith A. Morrison who died yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maggie Funk: Why can’t we get bilingual education right? | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Opinion: Viewpoints

Maggie Funk: Why can’t we get bilingual education right? | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Opinion: Viewpoints

Why indeed? If we know that there are better second language alternatives than English only then wouldn’t logic dictate that we use them? This is a constant frustration to me that folks pay more attention to opinion (and much seems to be paranoid, reactive, illogical opinion) than to facts. At least when it comes to bilingual education. If I hear one more time the story that, “well, my grandfather came to this country and learned English with no help, or bilingual education” I will SCREAM.

I think that more people need to look at the facts before deciding what works and what doesn’t. And the facts can’t be based on anecdotes but on larger n, prospective research. Anecdotes are too easy to distort. AGHHHH. Okay, I screamed– couldn’t help it.

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Cognate Advantage

This article caught my eye today. It’s published in Psych Science and looks at the effects of L2 on L1. Often, studies of sequential bilinguals look at the effects of L1 on L2, but here the investigators examined reading effects of L2 on L1. Specifically, participants were young adults (college students) who were native speakers of Dutch. They spoke (and read) English as a second language. They were asked to read passages in Dutch while investigators tracked their eye movements. What’s really cool about eye-tracking studies is that they offer a “window” into how a person is processing information. If they allocate a lot of attention to something it might be because they need extra time to decode or process. If they spend less time on something it’s likely because they were able to assimilate that information quickly. 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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Translation– the other side of the tapestry

That’s what Cervantes is to have have expressed. And I think it provides a nice mental picture of translation.

A recent story in the Mercury News discusses the need for qualified translators in the Los Angeles court system. At the same time a recent blog posted a reaction to another blog soliciting translation of the Mexican firearms statute presumably by untrained translators. Can bilinguals who have no training in translation accurately translate? Does it matter what they’re translating and who will read it? Is translation really that hard? Read the rest of this entry »

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Narrative Tasks in Bilingual Aphasia

Here is a conundrum:

If there are other researchers out there collecting narrative data from adult bilinguals, please provide your input.

For patients with bilingual aphasia, would  you:

(a) use narrative tasks that have been normed on adult bilingual adults or bilingual children (e.g., Frog where are you?) and try to extend them aphasia?


(b) use narrative tasks that have been normed on adult aphasic patients (e.g., Cinderella) and extend the sample to bilingual adults.

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