Here’s some recent language learning news that I’ve found interesting:
Talking helps language development more than reading alone – Although the conclusion of this UCLA study seems almost blatantly obvious, there is a significant implication, which is that the importance of talking to children has been obscured by the recent emphasis on reading with children. The study found that back-and-forth conversation was strongly associated with future improvements in the child’s language score. Conversely, adult monologueing, such as monologic reading, was more weakly associated with language development. TV viewing had no effect on language development, positive or negative. The study’s lead author, Dr. Frederick J. Zimmerman noted, “What’s new here is the finding that the effect of adult-child conversations was roughly six times as potent at fostering good language development as adult speech input alone.”
Inattentive behaviors in young children with autism predict lower later language development – The authors of this study, from the University of British Columbia, looked at autism from a different perspective than most previous research. Rather than focusing on social and linguistic aspects of autism, the authors looked at five types of inappropriate behaviors and how these behaviors predicted later language development. The study looked at some behaviors that parents and teachers frequently focus on, such as acting out, resistance to change, and socially unresponsive behavior, but the one that best predicted later language difficulties was inattentiveness. This is strikingly significant for autism intervention. Why is inattentiveness such a large problem? Creating a desire to change is critical with these children. Often, current intervention practices target making autistic children communicate (such as in ABA therapy), instead of trying to convince these kids to want to communicate.
Gene found to be associated with language, speech, and reading disorders – The gene in question is found on Chromosome 6. The significance is that variability in the gene was associated with both language and reading disorders, but not other disorders, such as autism or hearing impairment. Mabel Rice, from the University of Kansas, Shelley Smith, from the University of Nebraska, and Javier Gayán of Neocodex, Seville, Spain led a team of researchers that is part of a 20 year research program that is being funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one of the National Institutes of Health.