Language Maintenance and Loss in Preschool-Age Children of Mexican Immigrants: Longitudinal Study
Guiberson, Mark M., Barrett, Karen C., Jancosek, Elizabeth G., Itano, Christine Yoshinaga, Communication Disorders Quarterly
In this study, the authors plotted the Spanish language usage of 10 preschool-age children over the course of 3 years and assigned them to one of two groups: language maintenance and language loss. The authors then compared the groups' scores on structured tasks, language behaviors, and language usage/exposure variables. They found that children in the language loss group presented with more grammatical errors, whereas the language maintenance group performed better on Spanish vocabulary and language tasks. No specific variable was predictive of maintenance or loss, but the children from the language loss group began to use more English with family members or peers.
The number of preschool-age children from linguistically diverse backgrounds has drastically increased in the United States over the past decade. Enrollment of linguistically diverse children in Head Start, for example, rose from approximately 21% in 1993 to approximately 24% in 1999, with the largest growth rate seen in Spanishspeaking households, increasing from 17.5% to more than 20% (Administration for Children and Families, 2000). Currently, more than 2 million preschool-age children of Hispanic/Latino descent reside in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). Because of this demographic trend, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) need to be informed about bilingual language development in young children. This issue is quite complex, however, because linguistic differences may mask, mimic, or be confused for symptoms or characteristics of a specific disorder (Anderson, 2004; Schiff-Myers, 1992; Wong Fillmore, 1991). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2004) recognizes this difficulty and has provided guidelines stating that to provide ethical and appropriate services, professionals must possess knowledge about and be responsive to culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Unfortunately, most SLPs are not prepared to work with linguistically diverse children (Hammer, Detwiler, Detwiler, Blood, & Qualls, 2004; Kohnert, Kennedy, Glaze, Kan, & Carney, 2003; Papoutsis Kritikos, 2003; Roseberry-McKibbin, Brice, & O'Hanlon, 2005). In numerous surveys, SLPs have reported a lack of confidence or efficacy in assessing and treating children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Many of these surveys indicate that the causes probably include a lack of appropriate training and insufficient knowledge of cultural and linguistic differences.
Perhaps what makes assessing and working with children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds perplexing to many SLPs is the fact that these children present with a wide range of language proficiencies that are dynamic and that change over time (Genesee, Paradis, & Crago, 2004; Silva-Corvalan, 1991; Valdes & Figueroa, 1994). Understanding language development in these populations requires knowledge of both development in other languages and bilingual acquisition. Simultaneous acquisition occurs when a child is exposed to both languages simultaneously from birth or a very early age; sequential acquisition occurs when a child becomes exposed to and begins to learn the second language (L2) after developing his or her primary language (L1; Arnberg, 1987; Tabors, 1997). This distinction between sequential and simultaneous acquisition is important because each type of bilingualism results in slightly different developmental patterns (Arnberg, 1987; Cook, 1997; Harley & Wang, 1997; Tabors, 1997). For example, simultaneous bilingual children may present with language skills that are comparable across languages, whereas sequential bilingual children will proceed through a series of predictable stages (for reviews, see Genesee etal., 2004; Krashen, 1982; Tabors, 1997). At the same time, educators need to understand the effects of other important variables, including time of L2 exposure and context and quality of exposure to L1 and L2 (Patterson & Pearson, 2004). …