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Bilingual children face a variety of challenges that their monolingual peers do not. For instance, switching between languages requires the phonological translation of proper names, a skill that requires mapping the phonemic units of one language onto the phonemic units of the other. Proficiency of phonological awareness has been linked to reading success, but little information is available about phonological awareness across multiple phonologies. Furthermore, the relationship between this kind of phonological awareness and reading has never been addressed. The current study investigated phonological translation using a task designed to measure children's ability to map one phonological system onto another. A total of 425 kindergarten and second grade monolingual and bilingual students were evaluated. The results suggest that monolinguals generally performed poorly. Bilinguals translated real names more accurately than fictitious names, in both directions. Correlations between phonological translation and measures of reading ability were moderate, but reliable. Phonological translation is proposed as a tool with which to evaluate phonological awareness through the perspective of children who live with two languages and two attendant phonemic systems.
Bilingual children's language and literacy is stronger in some domains than others. Reanalysis of data from a broad-scale study of monolingual English and bilingual Spanish–English learners in Miami provided a clear demonstration of “profile effects,” where bilingual children perform at varying levels compared to monolinguals across different test types. The profile effects were strong and consistent across conditions of socioeconomic status, language in the home, and school setting (two way or English immersion). The profile effects indicated comparable performance of bilingual and monolingual children in basic reading tasks, but lower vocabulary scores for the bilinguals in both languages. Other test types showed intermediate scores in bilinguals, again with substantial consistency across groups. These profiles are interpreted as primarily due to the “distributed characteristic” of bilingual lexical knowledge, the tendency for bilingual individuals to know some words in one language but not the other and vice versa.
Final Syllable Lengthening (FSL) has been extensively examined in infant vocalizations in order to determine whether its basis is biological or learned. Findings suggest there may be a U-shaped developmental trajectory for FSL. The present study sought to verify this pattern and to determine whether vocal maturity and deafness influence FSL. Eight normally hearing infants, aged 0;3 to 1;0, and eight deaf infants, aged 0;8 to 4;0, were examined at three levels of prelinguistic vocal development: precanonical, canonical, and postcanonical. FSL was found at all three levels suggesting a biological basis for this phenomenon. Individual variability was, however, considerable. Reduction in the magnitude of FSL across the three sessions provided some support for a downward trend for FSL in infancy. Findings further indicated that auditory deprivation can significantly affect temporal aspects of infant speech production.
The study of bilingualism has often focused on two contradictory
possibilities: that the learning of two languages may produce deficits
performance in each language by comparison with performance of
monolingual individuals, or on the contrary, that the learning of two
languages may produce linguistic or cognitive advantages with regard to
the monolingual learning experience. The work reported here addressed
the possibility that the very early bilingual experience of infancy may
affect the unfolding of vocal precursors to speech. The results of
longitudinal research with 73 infants aged 0;4 to 1;6 in monolingual and
bilingual environments provided no support for either a bilingual deficit
hypothesis nor for its opposite, a bilingual advantage hypothesis. Infants
reared in bilingual and monolingual environments manifested similar
ages of onset for canonical babbling (production of well-formed
syllables), an event known to be fundamentally related to speech
development. Further, quantitative measures of vocal performance
(proportion of usage of well-formed syllables and vowel-like sounds)
showed additional similarities between monolingual and bilingual
infants. The similarities applied to infants of middle and low socio-economic
status and to infants that were born at term or prematurely.
The results suggest that vocal development in the first year of life is
robust with respect to conditions of rearing. The biological foundations
of speech appear to be such as to resist modifications in the natural
schedule of vocal development.
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