A Focus On Language Development Education Essay

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Within the United States a substantial increase has been apparent in children who are considered bilingual. Over a 15 year period between 1992 and 2007, the rise of children who spoke a second language, coupled with English, within their home, raised from 9% to 20%. There are now 11 million children speaking two languages. (National Centre for Education Statistics [NCES], 2009). It is hypothesised that bilingual children develop language at a much slower rate than monolingual children and factors such as usage and exposure play a vital part during this development period. The following three studies attempt to validate and support this hypothesis through literature review.

Hoff & Elledge (2005) produced a study in which looked at an exposure of bilingual (two language speaking) children's language developmental rate compared against monolingual children's language development when acquiring a singular language. They also tested bi-linguistic and monolingual achievement rates regarding English language achievement.

Secondly I will review Hoff, Core, Place, Rumiche, Senor & Parra (2012) wherein a study was conducted regarding, again, whether children acquiring two languages (bilingualism) fall behind children acquiring one language (monolingual) in terms of singular language development. They further diverse into differences in language development and achievement through the variable of how much the bilingual child hears of said language compared their second language.

In a study by Hammer, Komaroff, Rodriguez, Lopez, Scarpino & Goldstein (2012) two specific questions were addressed. Firstly, whether language exposure and usage affected bilingual children's vocabulary and story recall abilities within both their language and secondly whether parental characteristics on language development, predominantly parental education and language proficiency. After review of these three specified studies, this essay will discuss how they have contributed to knowledge within the field of bilingualism and language development and further provide recommendations for future research.

The area of bilingualism and language development is addressed through the rate of development. In Hoff & Elledge (2005) the question of whether bilingual children (English & Spanish) develop the English language slower than monolingual children, English being there only language, was addressed. A sample of 39 bilingual children and 63 monolingual children acquiring the English language, the mean age being 22.8 months were studied. They were subjected to a MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory task (CDI) and the Spanish equivalent, for bilingual children, the Inventario del Desarrollo de Hailidades Comunicatives (IDHC). The results indicated that children in monolingual homes were marginally more advanced in English vocabulary development than children in bilingual homes. It was also found that, when grammatical development was assessed, identical results formed. This suggests that the coverage of two languages causes children to obtain the vocabulary of both languages at a decelerated rate. These findings were supported in Hoff et al (2012) in which 47 bilingual and 56 monolingual children, this sample size being similar to Hoff & Elledge (2005), were also subjected to vocabulary tests. Again, as used above, the English MIC and its Spanish equivalent IDHC were used to yield raw vocabulary scores, in which saw the monolingual developing children produce a significantly higher score than the bilingually developing children with their vocabulary gains expanding further over time. One limitation to these results however is the children's language development was assessed using only a single instrument of data collection. There may very well be varied controls, patterns and ways in which language skill is produced and therefore, a requirement of multiple instruments may be essential in describing them. In contrast to Hoff & Elledge (2005) it was found in Hoff et al (2012) that monolingual developing children made superior gains in grammatical development and complexity within the English language over time as appose to bilingual children.

In addition, the area regarding the exposure and usage of dual languages is considered with view to whether it plays a significant role in language development. Hammer et al (2012) hypothetically addressed this through the study of 191 Latino families and their children who averaged the age of 59 months, English being their primary language. The sample size of this particular study outweighs the latter increasing the validity of the results and furthermore allowing the researchers to generalise much easier to a larger population. Correspondingly, within this study neurological, physical and cognitive concerns were controlled, this wasn't apparent within the latter studies. This variable could dramatically impact the results of a study. A background and language questionnaire, based upon the demographic/language usage questionnaire (August, D, Kenyon, D, Malabonga, V, Caglarcan, S, & Tabors, P 2002) was then administered in order to control further variables. In terms of data collection the Woodcock-Munoz Language Survey (Woodcock, R. Munoz, A. Reuf, M & Alvarado, C 2005) was used, particularly two sub sets. The first of these two sub sets was Picture Vocabulary/ Vocabulario Sobre Dibujos in which development of vocabulary was assessed and the second, Story Recall /Rememoración de Cuentos was used to measure listening, memory and expressive language. It was concluded that children's abilities within their two languages are affected by exposure and usage and that parental characteristics play a role within this development. Language usage, especially Spanish, where parents, teachers and significant others usage was higher than the additional language made dramatic differences within the story recall and vocabulary tests. Limiting the story recall task is the abilities that are tested becoming unrelated to language development. A focus on attention and memory is paramount within this task due to the memorising and recalling of sentences. However according to the Language Development Pyramid (NHS - Speech, language and communication services, 2012) used by speech and language therapists, attention and memory are important underlying skills required within language development.

Though, Hoff & Elledge (2005) supported Hammer et al (2012) through similar results whilst investigating language exposure. Amounts of exposure to another language are reliable with previous findings regarding bilingualism and language development (Pearson, B. Fernandez, C. Lewedeg, V & Oller D 1997). Results from Hoff et al (2012) also complimented Pearson et al's (1997) observation that children with a less than 20% exposure to a particular language would lose interest and become reluctant to speaking that language.

Throughout all the latter studies, investigation into the language exposure and usage between siblings hasn't been considered. Hornberger (1990) states 'The more the contexts of individuals' learning allow them to draw on all points of the continua, the greater are the chances for their full biliterate development'. Kenner's (2004) research into siblings influence within the development of bilingualism found that older siblings engaged in similar practices to that in which are found within a school environment. An older sibling would take on a teaching role, helping the younger child with their homework, book reading and conversation. Conversely, this sibling may then take on the role of speaking for the younger sibling; this can be detrimental for the bilingual child leading to a cessation of development. This can be supported with the 'Means, Reasons, and Opportunities' communication model by Money and Thurman (1994), displaying how one area of limitation may lead to overall dysfunctional communication (Money, 2000), indicating that for a person to communicate they must have the 'Means' - how to communicate, the 'Reasons' - why to communication, and the 'Opportunity' - a person and time to communicate with. Linking this with the previous point, a child whose sibling communicates for them, lacks 'Opportunity' to speak and therefore may have limited development hindering their 'Means'.

In Kamada (1998a) five pairs of siblings where studied in order to reveal divergences in second language development concerning birth order. Results found that if the older siblings attended school or other situations in which their second language was prominent then they would become accustomed to this and use it a lot more regularly within the household and especially with their younger siblings. This, in regards to the latter studies regarding exposure and usage, will play significance within the bilingual child when developing their language. Another limitation is that only a small frame of development, primarily from 16 to 59 months of age are accounted for. Further research continuing this development with age will indeed be paramount to education as particular language or lack of language skills can be assessed and applied within the curriculum.

Together, the results indicate that bilingual children develop language at a similar rate to monolingual children. It has been found that bilingual children lag behind monolingual children due to their rate of development being split across two different languages. Further results discover bilingual children to hold identical abilities within grammatical development and the English language compared with a monolingual child. Finally, outcomes show that a child's usage and exposure to the language tested is also a vital variable when testing language development. Attempts have been made to further research into whether mothers or teachers have the greatest impact in language exposure but Veltman (1981) found that when the father was an English monolingual, nearly half the children were English monolinguals; this is even when the mothers of the children usually spoke Spanish.

It can be assumed from the three literatures reviewed above that further research in bilingualism affecting language development that more longitudinal studies should be done. Likewise, more inclusion of parents, siblings and characteristics should be included within these studies as not every child can be labelled a slow learning bilingual child. This would greatly increase research validity within this area and would additionally add to a better assessment when studying language development.

Regarding ethical constraints, studies into bilingualism, especially regarding family and school intervention, must inhibit a large amount of respect and confidentiality. The researchers will be entering a child's private life; this could be within their homes or schooling environment, and therefore the stress on importance regarding consent, confidentiality and respect is paramount.

Consent is of great prominence in this area of research. Studies regarding children will result in parental consent as the child may be too young to give consent themselves, this may lead to problems regarding longitudinal studies. Longitudinal studies will require consent over a long period of time, within this area of language development a constant monitor is placed upon a child's progress. This therefore may result in parents of the children withdrawing their consent due to the length of such a study. It also needs to be highly accessed as to the risk of such time periods on emphasising a child's language development.

Longitudinal studies are extremely hard to conduct within this field due to the problems in which may arise over time. The children being studied may become bored and tiresome of being under constant observation and over time opt out of such studies through their rights to withdraw. The cost and risk of such long studies may also be detrimental. A child's language may be negatively affected through constant intervention.

The sample in which are tested in these studies are frowned upon as they do not give a general population sample due to the nature of what is being tested. It is only specific bilingual and monolingual children of a certain age, population and language in which can be tested together to create results, therefore, generalisation isn't feasible.