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Multilingualism seminar

FL—> L1 Transfer of Writing Strategies/Bilingualism and Speech and Language Disorders

19 January 2017, 13:00 – 14:30

Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

Dynamic Interactions Between Strategy Development and Cross-Linguistic Transfer in Foreign and First Language (L1) Writing by Karen Forbes

In an increasingly multilingual world, the way in which learners draw on their mother tongue (L1) and knowledge of other languages when learning a foreign language (FL), and the role of the FL in supporting use of the L1 in various ways is an important topic. This presentation examines how an explicit focus on metacognitive strategy use within a secondary school FL (German) classroom impacts students' development of writing strategies in the FL, and whether any such effects transfer to another FL (French) context and/or to the L1 (English). The study is based on a quasi-experimental research design which involved a two-phase intervention of strategy-based instruction primarily in the German classroom and later also in the English classroom of a Year 9 (age 13-14) class in a secondary school in England. Data were collected using writing strategy task sheets and questionnaires. Key findings indicate that while there was a high level of transfer from one FL context to another across all areas, FL-L1 transfer was especially evident in relation to an improvement in the quality of students' planning and a reduction in the number of errors. Pedagogical implications include highlighting the potential contribution of FL teachers to general writing development.


Bilingualism and Speech and Language Disorders by Özge Öztürk

Bilingualism in children with speech and language disorders is not yet well researched. In the UK, an estimated 5-12 % of all children are believed to have speech and language disorders (Law, 2000). Unfortunately, a common belief is that if learning one language is hard for the child, then two languages will be even more difficult to master. The family is then advised to keep to a single language in order to consolidate the child's resources and make things easier. This means families who have been using a minority language at home are asked to switch to the majority language so that the child can access the appropriate services (Kohnert, 2007).

There is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that switching to monolingualism helps a child overcome a speech and language disorder. Reducing the number of languages that a bilingual child with a speech and language disorder is exposed to does not cure the language impairment. It only creates a monolingual child with a speech and language disorder.

In this presentation we will first report the findings from a recent systematic review on the impact of bilingualism on the linguistic and social development of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities (Uljarević et al., 2016). We will then share some findings from research with bilingual children with ASD and their competence with core language and pragmatics (Reetzke et al., 2015). We will conclude by outlining the new study of Strand 6 of the MEITS Project that will address some of the gaps in the literature by examining bilingual and monolingual children on the autism spectrum.


Kohnert, K. (2007). Evidence-based practice and treatment of speech sound disorders in bilingual children. Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations, 14(2), 17-20.

Law, J., Boyle, J., Harris, F., Harkness, A. & Nye, C. (2000). Prevalence and natural history of primary speech and language delay: Findings from a systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 35 (2), 165-88.

Reetzke, R., Zou, X., Sheng, L., & Katsos, N. (2015). Communicative development in bilingually exposed Chinese children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 58(3), 813-825.

Uljarević, M., Katsos, N., Hudry, K., & Gibson, J.L. (2016). Multilingualism and neurodevelopmental disorders – an overview of recent research and discussion of clinical implications. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12596.

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Karen Forbes and Özge Öztürk, MEITS Postdoctoral Research Associates

13:00 - 14:30


Room GR04, Faculty of English, 9 West Rd, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

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