Summer School in Bilingualism, 16-27 July, 2012

Workshop: Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Our workshop on “Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society” will bring together researchers, students, speech and language therapists, and health professionals who work with children with typical and atypical language development. The emphasis will be language development in a bilingual and/or a multilingual setting.

The workshop will be held on the Saturday between the two weeks of the Summer School in Bilingualism, in the unique bilingual setting of North Wales.

Organizer: Dr. Vicky Chondrogianni

Keynote speakers


Registration will open at 8.30am. The workshop will finish at 6pm followed by a wine reception until 7.30. The detailed schedule will be available shortly.

NB: The event will take place in Hen Goleg (Building 55 on University map). The talks and will be held in the Conference Suite (room 1.12, 1st floor). Coffee/tea and lunch breaks as well as the poster session will take place in room 1.11 (adjacent to the Conference Suite). The registration desk will be located in room 1.11.

For a copy of the workshop schedule please click here.

Bangor University Map

Poster Session

We are organising a poster session on topics related to the theme of the workshop, i.e. typical and atypical language development in bilingual children, language assessments for bilingual children and diagnostic tools for language impairment in bilingual children. Please send a 300-word abstract on issues related to bilingualism and language impairment by May 30th to Dr Vicky Chondrogianni at References and tables are not included in the final word count. Please state the author(s)' name(s), affiliation and contact details in the body of the email. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by mid June 2012.

Registration Information

To register, please complete the registration form:

Email your completed form to Dr. Vicky Chondrogianni ( Registration deadline is July 1, 2012.

Cost: The registration fee is £10 for students (irrespective of university) and for staff of Bangor University. The fee is £25 for the general public. The event is free for participants of the Summer School in Bilingualism. The registration fee includes coffee/tea and lunch.

Workshop participants will receive a certificate of attendance.


En-suite rooms are available in Halls of Residence at the University. The room rate is £31 per person per night (for B&B) or £25.75 (for self-catering). To book a room please contact the Conference Office at quoting that this is for the Workshop on Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society.

For further accommodation options in Bangor, please consult the following links:

(Please note that rooms rates may have changed)


Fred Genesee (McGill University), Identifying risk for reading impairment in second language students

Many students around the world are educated through the medium of a second language (L2), in part of in whole. The development of high levels of reading ability is critical for these students’ academic success, as for all students. This presentation will review research that examined individual differences in L2 reading ability among a group of Grade 1 English-speaking students in an early total French immersion program. The research sought to answer the following questions:  (a) What factors predict risk for reading impairment in L2 student?; (b) Can risk for reading impairment be identified using tests in students' first language? (c) How early can risk be determined? and (d) Are risk for reading and language impairment overlapping or distinct risk profiles? The finding indicate that L2 students’ scores on L1 tests administered early in their schooling are reasonably good predictors of their risk for reading impairment, assessed up to three years later. The results are discussed further in terms of their implications for policy and practice.

Sharon Arnom-Lotem (Bar-Ilan University), Between L2 and SLI: Can bilingualism be instructive?

The present paper advances the claim that impaired bilinguals achieve a similar level of morphosyntactic knowledge as impaired monolinguals, and supports Roeper’s (2009) suggestion that bilingualism can be instructive for children with SLI. Subjects were English-Hebrew and Russian-Hebrew bilingual preschool children with either typical linguistic development (TLD) or specific language impairment (SLI), as well as a matched group of monolingual children with SLI. Data on the use of verb inflections in L2 Hebrew was obtained by sentence completion, sentence imitation and enactment tasks. The findings reveal that English-Hebrew bilinguals with TLD show a ceiling effect, while the error pattern of Russian-Hebrew bilinguals is characterized by the choice of a more complex morpheme, due to crosslinguistic interference, while children with SLI opt erroneously for less complex morphemes. Furthermore, the results show no significant difference between monolingual children with SLI (MO-SLI) and bilingual children with SLI (BI-SLI), in their respective use of past tense inflection, neither in the degree of success, nor in the type of errors. Moreover, in the present tense, children with BI-SLI perform better than children with MO-SLI. These findings suggest that children with BI-SLI are not only as accurate as children with MO-SLI, but sometimes even do better. That is, bilingual children seem to rely on their knowledge of the L1 in acquiring the L2, which subsequently gives them an overall advantage over children with MO-SLI. Further support for this claim will be presented from a study of preposition use and subject omission by the same populations.

Carolyn Letts (Newcastle University): Assessment across Languages.

Speech and Language Therapists assessing children who are bilingual or who have English as an additional language are faced with a major problem: how to evaluate the child’s language ability in the absence of norms and procedures that work for all the child’s languages and that take account of the their unique combination in each case. In this talk I will look at different aspects of language, namely vocabulary, simple sentences and complex sentences, and suggest what factors may need to be taken into account when working with languages other than English and in a bilingual context. This will build on guidelines presented in the Multilingual Toolkit (Letts & Sinka, 2011) which forms part of the New Reynell Developmental Language Scales (Edwards, Letts & Sinka, 2011). Examples from case studies across a number of languages will be used, including Welsh. Practical suggestions will be made for the development of appropriate informal assessment materials in contexts where little may be known about norms of language acquisition and resources may be limited.

Edwards, S., Letts, C and Sinka, I. (2011). The New Reynell Developmental Language Scales. London: GL-Assessment.

Shula Chiat (City University London) and Kamila Poliskenska (Manchester University): Immediate verbal repetition tasks: What do they tell us about children’s language skills?

Nonword repetition and sentence repetition have emerged as reliable clinical markers across different populations and languages (Conti-Ramsden, 2001; Poll et al., 2010; Seeff-Gabriel, Chiat & Roy, 2008; Stokes et al., 2006), yet little is known about the information they provide about children’s language abilities and knowledge. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the extent to which long-term memory linguistic representations affect immediate verbal repetition performance in children. This was addressed in an experiment investigating the effects of linguistic factors on children’s short-term memory (STM) span. One hundred typically developing children (50 Czech-speaking; 50 English-speaking) aged 4-5 years participated in the study. The set of stimuli in both languages consisted of sequences of verbal items which systematically manipulated grammaticality, semantics, prosody and lexicality, ranging from lists of nonwords at one end of the spectrum, to well-formed sentences at the other. In each condition, participants were asked to repeat blocks of successively longer stimuli. The pattern of results was similar for Czech and English. Every linguistic factor had a significant effect on STM span. However, while presence of nonwords and violation of syntax dramatically reduced memory span, semantic implausibility and removal of sentence prosody played a marginal role. These results provide support for the claim that verbal STM is linguistically structured, drawing on long-term memory representations, and demonstrate that verbal repetition is a sensitive and informative method for assessing language knowledge and skills.

Elin Thordardottir (McGill University): The application of bilingual norms to the assessment of bilingual children with language impairment

A major obstacle in the identification of language impairment (LI) in bilingual children is the lack of adequate norms, making it difficult to decide whether low scores are attributable to low levels of exposure or to the presence of impairment.   This talk will present normative data for simultaneous bilingual preschoolers acquiring French and English, documenting the effect of amount of exposure to each language on performance in each language.  Across domains of language (vocabulary and morphosyntax), amount of exposure exerted a strong influence on measures of language knowledge, with children having received unequal exposure to each language evidencing similarly unequal performance across the languages and exhibiting  highly  language-specific developmental patterns.  Importantly, low levels of exposure (25%) yielded error patterns in that language that generally viewed as clinical markers for LI in children exhibiting typical non-LI performance in their stronger language.  Amount of exposure had a much smaller effect on measures of language processing, notably nonword repetition.  The second part of the talk presents assessment profiles of 30 bilingual preschoolers previously identified as having LI, comparing their performance to monolingual norms as well as to bilingual norms (comparing individual children to that of typically developing children with a similar exposure history).  Results revealed that most of the bilingual children presented with a flat profile, involving a generalized delay across domains of language.  Monolingual norms were found to be most misrepresentative of vocabulary development, whereas monolingual and bilingual norms yielded equivalent results for nonword repetition.  The diagnostic accuracy of nonword repetition was examined further by comparing groups of monolingual and bilingual children with and without LI, supporting the viability of nonword repetition in the assessment of bilingual children.  The results of these studies underscore the heterogeneity of the bilingual population and shows that the accuracy of clinical assessment can be greatly improved by the existence of appropriate bilingual norms that take this heterogeneity into account.

Mrs Iona Gardner (Chair, Welsh Language SLT Committee): Current issues and experiences of assessing and treating bilingual children with Language Impairment in Wales

Abstract to follow.


Site footer