Reference : Cultural and language effects on measures of vocabulary and working memory
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Treatment & clinical psychology
Cultural and language effects on measures of vocabulary and working memory
Engel de Abreu, Pascale mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Educational Measurement and Applied Cognitive Science (EMACS)]
Baldassi, M []
Child Language Seminar
13th & 14th June 2011
[en] working memory ; minority-langauge ; socioeconomic status
[en] Two studies are presented exploring whether performance on assessments of working memory (WM) and vocabulary is affected by the experience with the test language and/or the linguistic and cultural status of the child. Forty 7-year-old Portuguese-speaking immigrant children growing up in Luxembourg were assessed on a range of L1 and L2 vocabulary measures and verbal WM tests. Their data was compared to monolingual speakers of Luxembourgish and Portuguese from different socioeconomic background (SES) groups.

Results showed that WM is highly associated with vocabulary in both native and foreign languages. Furthermore, the study indicates that WM tests are relatively independent of SES, test language, and immigrant/language status. In contrast, results on the vocabulary measures have shown that bilingual immigrant children perform equally well to monolinguals if their combined vocabulary across languages is considered but lack behind their monolingual peers in terms of conceptual development. The data suggests that bilingual immigrants’ poor conceptual knowledge is not simply a reflection of lower SES but instead seems to be a direct consequence of growing up as an immigrant in a multilingual environment.

The results of this study have important practical utility especially in relation to improving the range of culture-fair assessment tools that can be used with minority language children. As WM measures are highly associated with children’s language learning and are relatively independent of test language, language status, and SES, these tests might provide valuable tools for distinguishing between language impairments of a cognitive origin and language differences related to the environmental context of growing up as an immigrant with several languages. This distinction is crucial in order to avoid erroneous diagnostics and provide appropriate remediational support that help immigrant children overcome their langue differences in order to improve their chances of accessing the same opportunities and resources as their majority culture peers.
Researchers ; Professionals

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