Bilingual and Multilingual Development Research from Other Labs
Communication Habits of Parents with Bilingual Children who have Communicative Disorders
When it comes to bilingualism and children with disabilities, it is not uncommon for parents to think, or even be told by health professionals, that exposure to multiple languages might negatively affect the child’s chances of learning a language. However, this is not the case, and the number of languages that a child (with or without a disability) is exposed to does not make language learning any more or less difficult. As a result of the previous thought, some parents may decide to only use one language with their child. Typically this choice is based on which language will help them thrive socially or in school. For example, if the language that the child will use in school is English, then the parents may choose to only speak to their child in English. In some cases the parents have a strong understanding and ability to use this language and the change is easy for them to do, but in other cases English is not the parent’s strongest (or first) language and they switch to using a language that is less comfortable for them.
In the recent article Interaction Behaviors of Bilingual Parents with their Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Kristelle Hudry and colleagues discussed the use of a “non-comfortable” language by parents and how it might affect the type of exposure their child gets to language. Hudry and colleagues thought that the use of a non-native language by parents (compared to a native-language) might affect how the parent communicates with the child, and in turn what type of language the child is exposed to. Their belief was that bilingual, and monolingual, parents who use their native language when talking to their child would expose them to more complex language. They also believed that these parents would use more techniques to help their child develop language. In comparison, they thought that bilingual parents who used their non-native language when speaking to their child with Autism Spectrum Disorder would use less complex sentences and less language building strategies, negatively influencing their child’s language development. After observing bilingual parents interacting with their children in both their native and non-native language (taking into account how comfortable they were with their non-native language), and monolingual parent-child interactions, Hudry was not able to support her original thoughts. What she found was that the bilingual parents communicated very similarly, in terms of complexity of sentences and language strategies used, when speaking to their children in both their native and non-native languages.
This study shows us that not only does the number of languages that the child is exposed to not affect their ability to learn language, but the language that you choose to use with your child doesn’t change how you communicate. Whether the parent is using their native language or a language that they are less comfortable with, there is no change in the richness of the language the child is exposed to and learns from. This is strong support for the fact that children with or without disabilities are more than capable of learning multiple languages, and we should not think otherwise.
Myths of Bilingualism and Developmental Language Disorders
Keywords: Bilinguals, Communication, Language development, Language disorders, Learning, Myths
Figure from Kandhadai et. al (2014).
What is Special about a Bilingual Environment?
Keywords: Mental abilities, Culture, Language cues, Culture cues, Language development, Bilinguals
How the Infant-Caregiver Interaction Shapes Communication Development
Keywords: Communication, Joint attention, Cooperative communication, Responsiveness, Language development