Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adoptee Language Study Offers Insight into Language Acquisition

From the Boston Globe:
As Andy Ross learned to speak English, he progressed from simple word combinations like “Andy shoe’’ to the more complex “my red shoe,’’ just like any toddler.

But Andy was older when he began to learn English, after being adopted from Russia, and his chatter - taped in weekly sessions - has provided scientists important clues about how language develops.

Harvard psychologists are finding that preschool-age children adopted from foreign countries learn English in the same sequence as babies: starting with single words and progressing to word combinations and complex grammar.

That means it is not the maturity of the brain but the nature of language itself that dictates how it is learned, the Harvard scientists say.

“Because babies are immature in so many ways, it’s easy to assume their language is simple because their minds are simple,’’ said Jesse Snedeker, the Harvard psychologist leading the research. But this appears not to be the case, she said.

The research is helping scientists and families understand what to expect when a child who may already know one language is plunged into a new one. And it could eventually lead to better ways to teach language.
I'm always unsettled by research that uses adoptees to study something else, but this research does seem to benefit international adoptees in helping to explain their language acquisition while also offering insight into the larger picture of language acquisition. 


DannieA said...

My first reaction to this post is 'how is this news'? Then I realized it's because I get trained and professionally developed in this area being a speech therapist in a district where English is mostly a second language for 90% of the kids anyways, so nothing Language/Speech in the public schools Journal articles haven't covered before.

Anonymous said...

I posted about this on another website and several of the adoptive parents hotly denied that the language acquisition issues (I included reading, writing, and spelling in the broader issues) had anything to do with international adoption and that bio-kids can have these issues. It was so frustrating! Kids are wired to speak the language they've heard for the first years of life. I don't know how anyone thinks there wouldn't be issues. My child certainly had them.

On a funny note tyhe verification word for this post was "hearight"!

Anonymous said...

I read the article in the link below recently and it made sense. The article is from 2005 but speaks to how the ESL programs are designed for students who still have their first language which is spoken at home and how IA lose their first language quickly and English is spoken at home and really don't have a first language. A different method of teaching has to be employed. I can't tell you if anything different has happened or not but it was interesting.