The relationship between reported language input and vocabulary knowledge in typically developing bilingual children

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Campbell, Michael
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Description: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between reported language input (i.e. how much English or Spanish the parent says a child hears at home) and measures of vocabulary knowledge (i.e. a standardized Spanish/English vocabulary test). Why it is Important: Children with language disorders have challenges with using and/or understanding language. Because of these challenges, preschool children with language disorders tend to have long-term problems in school (e.g. learning to read, following directions, etc). If we can find children with disorders early, we can provide high quality services to help them. Identifying children accurately means measuring their language skills. In order to avoid misidentifying typically developing bilingual children as having a language disorder, we must gather information on the child’s experiences (i.e. input) and knowledge (i.e. vocabulary measures) of both languages. Then we can interpret how they relate to each other. This study uses typically developing children as a first step in understanding this relationship. Methods: Participants were part of a larger study on language assessment. Thirty-two typically developing preschool children with varying levels of exposure to both English and Spanish were assessed in their vocabulary knowledge of both languages. Caregivers were asked questions about how much their child was exposed to each language. Results: The data were analyzed on two levels. First, group data showed an overall significant correlation between reported parent input and the child’s vocabulary knowledge in that language. Second, an analysis on the individual level showed there were noteworthy exceptions to the group trend. Implications: These findings affirm the importance of measuring skills in both (or all) languages that a child uses. Moreover, they affirm the importance of gathering information on input from caregivers, since that is significantly correlated to measures of language ability, specifically vocabulary.