Eye on Heritage Speakers

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 08, 2007 1 min read
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Parents and teachers of bilingual children might want to savor a Feb. 7 article that features the language assets of a couple of children in an immigrant family. Such articles about heritage speakers of languages other than English are rare while it seems there is a glut of articles about monolingual children who speak English and have embarked on learning a second language in school immersion programs.

Sacramento Bee reporter Carrie Peyton Dahlberg zeros in on two school children, ages 6 and 9, who speak four languages to liven up her story about research findings favoring bilingualism. The two siblings move between two sets of grandparents after school, speaking in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

The article tells how Canadian researchers have found a link between bilingualism and a delay in the onset of dementia. In patients being treated for dementia, the symptoms of a fading mind occurred four years later for those who were bilingual than those who spoke only one language. A report of the study appeared in Volume 45, Issue 2, of the journal Neuropsychologia. Only an abstract is available on-line. Reuters picked up on it earlier.

For more about efforts to recognize the language abilities of heritage speakers, check out the work in this area by the Center for Applied Linguistics.

I featured heritage speakers of Arabic in Dearborn public schools in Education Week in April.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.