Focus on Bilingualism: World Language Perspectives
By: Alejandro Brice, Ph.D, CCC-SLP, Roanne Brice, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Ellen Kester, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
We recently had the positive experience of attending and presenting at an international conference (i.e., the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics) held in Athens, Greece this past August, 2010. Logopedics and phoniatrics is what speech-language pathology or communication disorders is often referred to as in some other countries. The article this month is less of a scholarly publication, but more of a general reflection of that trip combined with observations of our bilingual and multilingual experiences in Italy, Crotia, and Greece. Our travels took us to those three countries.
The first observation is that most Europeans speak more than one language and are either bilinguals or polyglots (speak more than two languages). It should come as no surprise that most Europeans also speak English to varying degrees. Some speak English fluently with native-like proficiencies. Many have studied English in their school years. The influence of British English and American English are also noteworthy. In addition, we spoke with many British, Australian, South African, Greek, and Brazilian conference participants (just to mention some of the countries at this conference). In essence, bilingualism is more common worldwide than the United States and as a result code switching will be more common which leads to the next observation.
The second observation is that sometimes one language will suffice for another. We had to exchange train tickets, ask for directions, and/or engage in many communications with others. The first author did not speak Italian, but was able to communicate with others by speaking Spanish while we were in Italy. Sometimes, our Spanish speaking behavior resulted in their asking if we spoke English. We noticed that code switching to find an appropriate common language often resulted. And many times we would go back and forth among English, Italian, and Spanish. Please note that use of code switching is a typical and normal development among bilingual individuals.
This leads to our final and most noteworthy observation. No language or combination of languages was deemed inappropriate. Communication was the key element. Repetition often occurred along with a slowed rate of speech, and/or use of gestures. We were still able to exchange our train tickets, obtain directions, and purchase items with no difficulty. What all these observations translate into for clinicians is that communication is essential; communication may take many forms; code switching is a typical behavior and strategy; and use of various strategies with a positive attitude will most likely result in a positive outcome. We encourage all speech-language pathologists, logopedics, fonoaudiologits, and professionals in communication sciences and disorders to observe and engage in the common world language of communication.
This Month’s Featured Authors:
Alejandro Brice, Ph.D., CCC-SLP University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Roanne Brice, Ph.D., CCC-SLP University of Central Florida
Ellen Kester, Ph.D., CCC-SLP Bilinguistics, Inc.
Many thanks to Dr. Alejandro E. Brice for providing this article for this months newsletter
Dr. Alejandro E. Brice is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg in Secondary/ESOL Education. His research has focused on issues of transference or interference between two languages in the areas of phonetics, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics related to speech-language pathology. In addition, his clinical expertise relates to the appropriate assessment and treatment of Spanish-English speaking students and clients. Please visit his website at http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=LkQG42oAAAAJ&hl=en or reach him by email at [email protected]
Dr. Roanne G. Brice is the Assistant to the Chair for the Department of Child, Family and Community Sciences at the University of Central Florida. Her research interests have focused on language and beginning literacy skills in bilingual children and students with disorders/disabilities. In addition to teaching at the university level, Dr. Brice has been an itinerant and self-contained classroom speech-language pathologist as well as a general education classroom teacher. She may be reached at [email protected]
Dr. Ellen Kester is a Founder and President of Bilinquistics, Inc. http://www.bilinguistics.com. She earned her Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The University of Texas at Austin. She earned her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish at The University of Texas at Austin. She has provided bilingual Spanish/English speech-language services in schools, hospitals, and early intervention settings. Her research focus is on the acquisition of semantic language skills in bilingual children, with emphasis on assessment practices for the bilingual population. She has performed workshops and training seminars, and has presented at conferences both nationally and internationally. Dr. Kester teaches courses in language development, assessment and intervention of language disorders, early childhood intervention, and measurement at The University of Texas at Austin. She can be reached at
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