Bilingual

Bilingualism and math standards

I am preparing for an upcoming presentation on instructional strategies for young children who are dual-language learners.  I am really fascinated by the language used in the Common Core Mathematics Standards.  You might wonder what bilingualism and mathematics standards could possibly have to do with each other.  Well, I think quite a lot.  These standards remind me of numerous advantages that many bilinguals have been found to experience, such as with problem-solving skills.


Take a look, for example, at the first two goals which you can find on page 6 of the Mathematics Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/Math/):

  1. “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution.”
  2. “Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations.”

For brevity, I’ll highlight a few particular areas and phrases to illustrate why these standards make me think of bilinguals:

  • “They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems… the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize”
  • “…to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved”
  • “…attending to the meaning…not just how to compute”
  • “…knowing and flexibly using”

So, attention, abstraction, symbols, manipulation, meaning, flexibly using—do not these terms also all relate to the natural experience of being bilingual?  Bilinguals attend to the language being used; they may display early understanding that words are abstract and arbitrary symbols to convey meaning that vary by language; they demonstrate the ability to manipulate language use to communicate in one language with one person, the other language with another person, and even both languages simultaneously with certain people in some situations to enhance meaning.  Talk about flexibility!

The mathematics standards are much more than rote memorization and computation; they target underlying cognitive skills in attention, analysis, abstraction, flexibility, and creative thought processes in which bilinguals have been shown to have advantages.

In my mind, this is all the more justification for not only allowing children to maintain their first language, but strongly encouraging and supporting parents’ endeavors to raise their children with more than one language, and therefore, experience the benefits that bilingualism affords them.

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The Current and Growing Need for Multicultural/Multilingual Preparation

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has reported that the prevalence of communication disorders is approximately 10% of the population.  This means that more than 31 million people in the U.S. are affected by speech, language, and/or hearing disorders which negatively impact their social, academic, and occupational communication skills.  The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (2013) estimates that the number of speech-language pathologists will grow by 23.4 percent over the next 10 years, with approximately 28,000 new jobs in speech-language pathology by 2020.

There is a significant need for more speech-language pathologists, and in particular, greater numbers of professionals with specialized training to serve culturally and linguistically diverse populations.  Approximately 1 in 5 people in the U.S. speak a language other than English.  Therefore, more than 6 million people would benefit from the services of a bilingual speech-language pathologist to help them meet the communication demands in the social, academic, and occupational contexts of their daily lives.  In the state of Illinois, 22.2% of individuals speak a language other than English at home (U.S. Census, 2010).  According the American Community Survey (ACS), the ten most commonly spoken languages after English in Illinois are Spanish (58.60%), Polish (7.54%), Tagalog (2.94), Chinese (2.25%), German (1.89%), Korean (1.89%), Arabic (1.75%), Urdu (1.61%), Russian (1.61%), and Italian (1.56%).

EcuadorsArt | Boston Massachusetts

To help meet the demand for professionals who can provide optimal services to diverse populations, the graduate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Elmhurst College will begin offering a Multicultural/Multilingual (M&M) Emphasis in the fall of 2015.  Such an emphasis is urgently needed in the greater Chicago area and many areas of Illinois where speech-language pathologists and audiologists serve individuals from numerous language backgrounds.  This emphasis is designed for students with oral proficiency in more than one language who wish to pursue specialized academic, research, and clinical experiences to meet the unique needs of culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

In accordance with ASHA’s practice policy (please see http://www.asha.org/policy/KS2004-00215/), the emphasis will foster students’ language proficiency, cultural competence, knowledge of typical and atypical speech and language development in diverse speakers, and their ability to provide appropriate assessment and intervention to diverse populations through a combination of coursework, clinical experience, and if students choose, an international travel experience.

We are excited about this effort to better serve our communities in the greater Chicago area and beyond.

Cozy up with some good reads

Dr. Brenda K. Gorman, Contributing Author

Hello everyone. I hope you’ve been enjoying the beautiful autumn and rustling leaves. Rustling, hustling, bustling – it’s been very busy around here preparing for multiple local area presentations and the upcoming ASHA convention on the topic of dual language learners (DLLs).  I’ve also been receiving many requests for recommended reading resources on the topic of DLLs, even a couple from physicians!  The interest is very encouraging, so I would like to share some of my favorite resources below.  As it’s getting a bit chillier, you might want to cozy up with some good reads.

Assessment Resources

Pearson, B. Z., Fernandez, S. C., & Oller, D. K. (1993). Lexical development in bilingual infants and toddlers: Comparison to monolingual norms. Language Learning, 43(1), 93-120.

Peña, E.D., Gillam, R.B., Bedore, L.M., & Bohman, T.M. (2011). Risk for poor performance on a language screening measure for bilingual preschoolers and kindergartenersAmerican Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 20, 302-314. Supporting video: Can Special Needs Kids Be Bilingual?

Simón-Cereijido, G., & Gutiérrez-Clellen, V. (2009). A cross-linguistic and bilingual evaluation of the interdependence between lexical and grammatical domains. Applied Psycholinguistics, 30, 315-337.

Williams, C.J., & McLeod, S. (2012). Speech-language pathologists’ assessment and intervention practices with multilingual children. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 14(3), 292-305.

Intervention Resources

Gorman, B.K., Brice, A.E., & Berman, S. (2012). Reading acquisition program for Spanish-speakers. Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, 19, 49-57.

Lugo-Neris, M. J., Jackson, C. W., & Goldstein, H. (2010). Facilitating vocabulary acquisition of young English language learners. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41(3), 314–327.

Perozzi, J. A., & Chavez Sanchez, M. L. (1992). The effect of instruction in L1 on receptive acquisition of L2 for bilingual children with language delay. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 23, 348–352.

Ulanoff, S. H., & Pucci, S. L. (1999). Learning words from books: The effects of read aloud on second language vocabulary acquisition. Bilingual Research Journal, 23(4), 319-332.

DLLs with Special Needs

Hambly, C., & Fombonne, E. The impact of bilingual environments on language development in children with Autism Spectrum DisordersJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Online First, 22 September 2011). Supporting video: Can Special Needs Kids Be Bilingual?

Kay-Raining Bird, E., Cleave, P., Trudeau, N., Thordardottir, E., Sutton, A., & Thorpe, A. (2005). The language abilities of bilingual children with Down syndrome. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 14, 187–199.  Explores the capacity of Down syndrome children to acquire more than one language. This research is noted by Dr. Brenda Gorman in the Grupo Lingua YouTube video: Can Special Needs Kids Be Bilingual?

Kohnert, K., Yim, D., Nett, K., Kan, P. F., & Duran, L. (2005). Intervention with linguistically diverse preschool children: A focus on developing home language(s)Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 251-263. Supporting video: Can Special Needs Kids Be Bilingual?

Petersen, J.M., Marinova-Todd, S.H., & Mirenda, P. Brief report: An exploratory study of lexical skills in bilingual children with Autism Spectrum DisorderJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, (Online First, 27 September 2011). Supporting video: Can Special Needs Kids Be Bilingual?

Bilingual Children and Educational Issues

Age of First Bilingual Language Exposure as a New Window into Bilingual Reading Development, Kovelman

Menken, K., & Antunez, B. (2001). An overview of the preparation and certification of teachers working with limited English proficient students. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse of Bilingual Education.

Rolstad, K., Mahoney, K., & Glass, G. V. (2005). The big picture: A meta-analysis of program effectiveness research on English Language Learners. Educational Policy, 19(4), 572-594.

Slavin, R. E., & Cheung, A. (2003).  Effective reading programs for English language learners: A best-evidence synthesis. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR).

Compilation of articles, journals and publications regarding bilingualism effects on cognitive development and language acquisition and development

Bailystok’s research is referenced by Dr. Brenda Gorman in Grupo Lingua’s YouTube video “Myths about Bilingual Children”. Bialystok-references come from a compilation of sources of her work in this area.

Multiple articles addressing bilingualism from the Center for Applied Linguistics

Late talking and the impact of bilingualism

Dr. Brenda K. Gorman, Contributing Author

A very common question that I receive from speech-language pathologists and parents is whether or not growing up with two languages can cause late-talking. When SLPs say “late-talking,” we are generally referring to children who are producing approximately 50 words or fewer by two years of age. Children with normal language development are generally producing between 200 and 300 words at that age, and of course, they are understanding many more.

Many other professors who specialize in dual-language issues often receive the same inquiry. Therefore, to help address this common question, Dr. Alejandro Brice and I created a short online video relevant to the topic which you can view and share at http://youtu.be/zT0x-EqanGg. In this video, I discuss the incidence of late-talking and summarize the research, which, in a nutshell, does not indicate that early bilingual exposure causes late-talking. Finally, I share a memorable experience with one of my own children.

We hope you find the video helpful!

Bilingual brains, monolingual brains, apples and oranges

Dr. Brenda K. Gorman, Contributing Author

I took my boys to Baskin-Robbins the other day, where they still have the flavor that has been my favorite ever since I was a child. The ice cream was awesome, of course, as was the conversation with my 8-year-old and 4-year-old sons.

Older: How many scoops are in a double?

Younger: Two.

Older: How many are in a triple?

Younger: Three.

Me: How about in a quadruple?

Younger: Cuatro.

Now you may wonder why he said “cuatro” in Spanish. Does he often mix English and Spanish? No, not often at all. Actually, his receptive language skills in Spanish are good, but he rarely speaks in Spanish spontaneously, without prompting. I thought he would have been primed to say “four,” given the preceding “two” and “three” cues. Interestingly, though, the prefix “quad” primed him to produce the similarly sounding word choice, “cuatro.” It is fascinating to consider how language is represented in the brain and how the neural circuitry in bilinguals differs that of monolinguals.

This is all an important reminder that we cannot compare apples to oranges during our assessments. Even if a child produces mostly English, this does not mean that we can ignore his dual-language experience and easily use monolingual norms to compare his skills to that of an English monolingual. In fact, it is possible for a client to perform better on expressive tasks in one language and better on receptive tasks in another language. One cannot judge proficiency based on expressive skills alone. The bottom line is that we need to collect thorough language histories and document these histories in our reports. And we need to remember that the bilingual brain is amazing and unique.