Google Play icon

Bilingual children’s storytelling vocabulary in both languages matches that of monolinguals: study

Share
Posted November 7, 2018

Bilingual children use just as many words as monolingual children when telling stories in both their languages, contradicting previous research that found bilingual children scored lower than monolingual children on standardized vocabulary tests, a new study shows.

University of Alberta researchers examined a group of Mandarin-English bilingual children between the ages of four and six, and a group of English monolingual children of the same age. Both groups were asked to watch a short cartoon, then retell the story in their languages.

School, language. Image credit: geralt via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

School, language. Image credit: geralt via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

“Our findings show that the bilingual children told stories with just as many different words in both languages, compared with monolingual children,” explained Elena Nicoladis, lead author and professor in the Department of Psychology. “They are not using simpler words. They are using words that are just as hard to say and with just as high or low frequency.”

Elena Nicoladis and her research team had groups of bilingual and monolingual children watch a cartoon and retell the story in their own languages. Both groups showed similar vocabulary levels, with no sign of a language delay among the bilingual children. (Photo: Andrew Lyle, University of Alberta)

Elena Nicoladis and her research team had groups of bilingual and monolingual children watch a cartoon and retell the story in their own languages. Both groups showed similar vocabulary levels, with no sign of a language delay among the bilingual children. (Photo: Andrew Lyle, University of Alberta)

The difference in the study’s results compared to previous research findings, Nicoladis suggested, may result from the ability of bilingual children to shift their attention in free-form tasks.

When bilingual children are approaching a concept they don’t know how to explain, they are able to shift their attention to another, similar way of saying it, explained Nicoladis. For example, the story involved a panther. Instead of saying “panther,” some bilingual children used the word “cat” to tell the story instead. Although the word wasn’t exactly correct, it was functional and acceptable for the purposes of telling a story.

“A lot of research up until now has shown delays in bilingual children,” said Nicoladis. “Our results suggest that as soon as you get them into a more free-form type of task, which would be closer to what schools are likely to ask for, we don’t see anything that looks even remotely like a delay.”

Source: University of Alberta

Featured news from related categories:

Technology Org App
Google Play icon
84,790 science & technology articles

Most Popular Articles

  1. Real Artificial Gravity for SpaceX Starship (September 17, 2019)
  2. Top NASA Manager Says the 2024 Moon Landing by Astronauts might not Happen (September 19, 2019)
  3. How social media altered the good parenting ideal (September 4, 2019)
  4. What's the difference between offensive and defensive hand grenades? (September 26, 2019)
  5. Just How Feasible is a Warp Drive? (September 25, 2019)

Follow us

Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Tumblr   RSS   Newsletter via Email