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Language and Cognitive Aspects of Child Bilingualism

Research Observations and Classroom Applications

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Maria Andreou

This book investigates how bilingualism affects children’s language, cognitive and narrative abilities. The data sample derives from 209 8-12 years old bilingual children, in three different targeted languages (Greek-English, Greek-German, Greek-Albanian) along with 100 monolingual Greek children. The children completed baseline and experimental tasks measuring their vocabulary, grammar, cognitive skills, and narrative production abilities. The outcome of this work reveals that learning to read and write in two languages is beneficial for the development of language and cognitive skills. A strong case can be made to the growing bilingual communities in Germany and beyond to provide literacy training in both languages within mainstream schools, afternoon classes outside of the curriculum or in community schools.

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5 Narration Task: Description and Coding

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Three elicitation tasks telling, retelling in oral form and retelling in written form are used in assessing children’s narrative abilities. A vast body of crosslinguistic research shows that children start to develop narrative abilities early in life. However, it takes them beyond the age of 10 to be comparable to those of adults in their story telling. Many studies suggest that the skills needed for story telling are not only dependent on children’s development of their linguistic repertoire, but also on their cognitive development and their exposure to literate genres and modalities (Berman 2004, 2009; Berman and Slobin 1994; Hickmann 2003). More specifically, when we tell a story, we need to transpose the cognitive representation of the story in our memory into language by using the linguistic means available in the respective language. The Narration task increases in complexity when the common ground between narrator and audience is not available through extra-linguisitic cues, such as picture books, but instead needs to be created entirely by linguistic means.

The telling mode is considered to be more demanding than retelling, since the child is forced to create a story of his own making. With regard to this observation Schneider, Hayward and Dubé (2006) claim that the procedure of telling can provide a more detailed picture about children’s independent language skills. They claim that the retelling mode in oral form creates an umbrella of different domains that combine not only language abilities but cognitive abilities as well. However, the telling mode...

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