Lightening Round Interview 3 : Bilingual Language Development

Bilingual Language Development with Ana Paula Mumy!

Lightening Round Interview 3 : Bilingual Language Development

with Ana Paula G. Mumy


Welcome to another installment of Lightening Round Interviews. For these interviews, I’ll be “speaking” with experts in various professions related to early childhood development.

Today, I welcome Ana Paula G. Mumy, a trilingual speech language pathologist with expertise in assessing and treating linguistically and culturally diverse populations. She is also the author of GROW! Language Development With Engaging Children’s Stories (¡CREZCA! El Desarrollo de Lenguaje Con Cuentos Infantiles Divertidos), a series of 12 leveled children’s books written for English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, or bilingual children. Ana Paula will participate in a lightening round interview of 5 questions on the topic of bilingual language development. The first question is always personal and related to how the interviewee became interested in working in a particular area or with a special population. For the last question, I ask for recommended resources.

1. Ana Paula, you specialize in assessing and treating bilingual children. How did you become interested in serving this population?

  • Answer: “Well, being a multilingual individual somewhat places you in this area by default.  Right after grad school, I unknowingly went to work for a highly diverse school district, and as the only Spanish-speaking SLP in the area, I completed all speech/language evaluations for Hispanic students in the district (and surrounding districts!), so I was forced into a position of becoming an “expert” on working with diverse populations.  At the onset of my Clinical Fellowship year, I had a wonderful mentor – Robin Morales Cabral, but I mainly learned by experience as I went along.”

2. What is the difference between a language disorder and a language difference? How can a speech language pathologist differentiate between the two?

  • Answer: “Since we know what language disorders are, I’ll focus on defining language difference.  A difference is when a native speaker exhibits a different dialect or when a non-native speaker exhibits differences in pronunciation or language production (involving vocabulary, grammar/syntax) as a result of differences between their native language (often referred to as L1) and the majority language of the community (L2).  These L1/L2 differences that create production differences point to language interference, where elements of one language (phonological, lexical or grammatical elements) interfere with learning a second language.  This interference, however, does not indicate a language disorder, which is why SLPs must be knowledgeable and thorough when assessing culturally and linguistically diverse individuals. The second question is difficult to answer briefly, but differentiating between the two should always include assessing that individual in both L1 and L2, even if L2 conversational skills appear adequate.  Because standardized measures are often biased against English language learners, other forms of assessment may include obtaining detailed case histories, dynamic assessment, utilizing conceptual scoring, just to name a few.”

 3. Why is early infancy an ideal time for a child to be exposed to two or more languages?

  • Answer: “The exposure to two or more languages early is ideal because language learning is a natural and essentially effortless process for young children.  Without getting into neuroscience and brain development too deeply, the research seems to indicate that there’s a critical period when our brains are most receptive to learning, especially language learning.  Our brain cells are basically open to forming thousands and thousands of connections at an early age, but over time, that brain plasticity diminishes, making language learning more difficult.”

 4. Why is it so important for parents of English language learners to speak to their children in their native language?

  • Answer: “The main and most obvious reason is because the native language is most likely the language the parents speak best, so it’s the language they’re able to model and support effectively.  As SLPs we know that quality language input at home is crucial for language development.  Another important reason is because the native language is normally the language of parent-child bonding since that is the language parents can express love, affection, emotion, instruction, correction, praise, humor, and so on, with the most confidence and ease.”

5. Can you recommend any resources (books, websites, others) to help readers learn more about bilingual language development?

Thank you so much, Ana Paula, for participating in Lightening Round Interviews!

Check out Ana Paula’s website –The Speech Stop. It has a wealth of great information, resources, activities and tips including a section on excellent articles on bilingualism.

Previous Lightening Round interview topics include:

Executive Functions and Speech Therapy

Language and Picky Eating in Internationally Adopted Children

Thanks for reading!

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist, an author and a mother. As the owner of Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC, a unique boutique practice in Bergen County, Kimberly embraces individuality and treats the whole person. Her goal is to spread compassion, hope, and some speech, language and literacy tips one moment, one person at a time.  Her first book, My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development and her her second book, Learning to Read is a Ball are available for purchase at online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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