Angen teuluoedd ar gyfer prosiect ymchwil i ddwyieithrwydd a syndrom Down

Mae ymchwilwyr ym Mhrifysgol Bangor yn chwilio am deuluoedd sydd â phlant gyda syndrom Down i gymryd rhan mewn prosiect ymchwil i ddwyieithrwydd a syndrom Down.

Mae etiem newyddion yn ymddangos yn Saesneg yn unig, oni bai bod y testun gwreiddiol wedi'i ddarparu yn Gymraeg hefyd.

Overview

Language is one of the main areas of difficulty within individuals with Down syndrome, particularly when compared to general cognitive abilities, as language development is typically lower than would be expected. There is also a great deal of individual difference in terms of overall language abilities.

Generally, children with Down syndrome have stronger abilities in language comprehension than in spoken or expressive language. Research in the field of language development within Down syndrome has primarily focused on language abilities of children learning one language only; however, there are a considerable number of bilingual speakers across the world, including in Wales which is the only officially bilingual country in the UK.

The patterns of language development within bilinguals with Down syndrome is, therefore, an area requiring investigation. Findings to date suggest that children with Down syndrome are not at any disadvantage if they are exposed to a second language when compared to children with Down syndrome who speak only English, however, this has not been researched in the UK as of yet.

New study

The current ongoing research project at Bangor University aims to enhance  understanding of this area and more specifically within the Welsh language context. Parents or guardians will also be asked to complete a background questionnaire and children will be assessed on a range of language and cognitive measures.

The researchers are looking for families to take part who have a child with Down syndrome between the ages of 5-18, who either speak English only or who are Welsh-English bilinguals.

Some of the questions that they hope to answer are:

  • What are the language abilities of children with Down syndrome who are bilingual or monolingual?
  • Are there areas of language development that are more challenging for these individuals?
  • How does their language development compare for children who speak two languages compared to those who speak one?

How to take part

If you are interested in taking part in the research or would like some more information, please contact the researchers via email: rebecca.ward@bangor.ac.uk

The research can be conducted at a suitable location for you, whether this is at your home, school or other convenient location. It is hoped that this research will provide a new insight into the bilingual and monolingual language development in Down syndrome that will assist families in making informed language choices, as well as implications for clinical practice and education policy in Wales.

Language development in bilinguals with Down syndrome

There is limited information to date available to guide families and practitioners working with bilingual children who have Down syndrome. Consequently, where there is a choice in terms of bilingual exposure, parents may have difficulties in identifying the potential language outcome for these children.

A further area of specific difficulty within those with Down syndrome is a skill termed phonological awareness. This is the ability to identify and manipulate speech sounds within a language. Phonological awareness plays an important role in learning to read and spell. In typically developing bilingual children, this skill is reportedly enhanced. Consequently, it is interesting to consider how this skill will develop in bilinguals with Down syndrome.

Previous research into bilingualism in Down syndrome has primarily focused on French-English bilinguals in Canada. Researchers compared the language abilities of bilinguals and monolinguals with Down syndrome in terms of overall language assessments and found that the language abilities of the two groups of children were comparable.

Therefore, the addition of a second language may not be a detriment to language acquisition as some may automatically assume. It may seem counterintuitive to some to expose a child to a second language if they initially have difficulties in acquiring their first language, however, there is no evidence against exposure to two languages.

Although there are most often delays and impairments within the language domain for children with Down syndrome, research suggests that bilingualism will not increase these difficulties.

Being able to speak two languages is advantageous in our multilingual world. Alongside this, bilingualism may also benefit some of the specific areas in which individuals with Down syndrome tend to struggle, such as phonological awareness mentioned earlier.

The addition of a second language for children with Down syndrome may even assist with this underdeveloped area, which may impact later reading and spelling development.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Rebecca Ward, PhD Student
School of Linguistics and English Language
Bangor University
Bangor, Gwynedd.
LL57 2DG

Email: rebecca.ward@bangor.ac.uk
                                             
Or

Dr Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Language Acquisition
School of Linguistics and English Language
Bangor University
Bangor, Gwynedd.
LL57 2DG.

Email: e.sanoudaki@bangor.ac.uk