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Issue Editor Foreword

Directions in Addressing the Language and Literacy Needs of Children Across the Bilingual Continuum

Editor(s): Guiberson, Mark PhD, Issue Co-Editors; Rosa-Lugo, Linda I. EdD, Issue Co-Editors

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doi: 10.1097/TLD.0000000000000267
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One of the most widespread and harmful myths in our society is that very young children will learn a second language automatically, quickly, and easily—with no special attention to their needs for an optimal learning environment.

—Catherine Snow

There are many myths or misconceptions about bilingual children. One myth that we have come across frequently is that bilingual children experience the phenomenon of language confusion, an imagined condition in which children cannot separate their first language (L1) from their second language (L2) (Espinosa, 2013; Guiberson, 2013). In such instances, educators may erroneously view code-switching, a normal bilingual behavior in which children draw upon both languages within a given utterance, as evidence for language confusion or a general deficit in the ability to separate languages. The myth of language confusion is frequently used to justify an English-only approach to educational programming and discussions with families about choosing a language. Unfortunately, this line of flawed reasoning is applied to both typically developing children and those with language disorders. Language confusion does occur when educators become confused about bilingual children and their development. Bilingual children can be perplexing because there is a tremendous amount of variability in bilingualism, with L1 and L2 proficiencies that are dynamic across time and settings. That is, bilingualism operates on a continuum and the quantity, quality, and context of L1 and L2 exposure and usage are major sources of variability and influence on a child's bilingual profile.

In this issue of Topics of Language Disorders, we hope to advance the understanding of the bilingual continuum across ages and educational settings. We have assembled original research and clinical tutorials with the goal of highlighting the unique language and literacy needs of children with diverse proficiencies in L1 and L2. In two of the articles, vocabulary teaching and learning for bilingual children is the focus. Ehren, Rosa-Lugo, and Hagan present an adapted version of the promising Vocabulary Scenario Technique that taps into L1 strengths while teaching L2. Roseberry-Mckibbin presents a clinical tutorial on ways to differentiate academic vocabulary instruction for bilingual children with developmental language disorders. This article also presents the use of L1 as a cross-linguistic tool to teach L2 vocabulary, as well as several other innovations to enrich vocabulary instruction. Two of the articles focus on addressing both language and literacy development in bilingual children. Guiberson reviews extant research and presents a descriptive study of early literacy behaviors of Spanish-speaking caregivers of 2- and 3-year-old children. Findings from the review and the descriptive study are combined, and 26 early literacy and language strategies are described. Fiestas and colleagues describe a packaged literacy and language intervention for primary- grade bilingual children. Incidentally, this intervention also targets vocabulary and the use of L1 to support new L2 development through both oral and print activities. It also includes narrative comprehension and production instruction and goals. The final study describes the use of English learner case simulations with graduate students in speech–language pathology to practice a strategy used with bilingual children that considers their language proficiency. Findings from this work show general benefits in graduate students' overall engagement and preparedness to consider English learners and their specific needs.

Although we recognize there is a need for more research, particularly treatment research with bilingual children, it is our hope that this issue of Topics in Language Disorders will demonstrate that meeting the language and literacy needs of bilingual learners requires careful consideration and specialized instruction. We also hope this issue provides educators and researchers direction in addressing the complex and varied language and literacy profiles of bilingual children across the bilingual continuum.

—Mark Guiberson, PhD
—Linda I. Rosa-Lugo, EdD
Issue Co-Editors


Espinosa L. M. (2013). PreK-3rd: Challenging common myths about dual language learners: An update to the seminal 2008 report. Foundation for Child Development.
Guiberson M. (2013). Bilingual myth-busters series: Language confusion in bilingual children. Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Populations, 20(1), 5–14.
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