FAU study reveals learning tendencies of bilingual children

Psychology professor Erika Hoff was the lead author of the study.


Photo of Ericka Hoff courtesy of FAU Media Relations.

Benjamin Paley, Contributing Writer

Children who are bilingual learn their languages at the same time, but their brain comprehends those skills independently of each other, according to a recent FAU study.

The study looked at the correlation between the size of a child’s vocabulary and the grammatical complexity of their speech, as stated by an FAU news release.

Erika Hoff, an FAU professor of psychology at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and director of the Language Development Lab, is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal “Developmental Science.” Hoff worked with David Giguere, a graduate research assistant at FAU and Jamie M. Quinn, a graduate research assistant at Florida State University.

“One well established fact about monolingual development is that the size of children’s vocabularies and the grammatical complexity of their speech are strongly related,” Hoff said. “It turns out that this is true for each language in bilingual children.”

According to the release, the researchers “measured the vocabulary and level of grammatical development in these children in six-month intervals between the ages of 2 and a half to 4 years.”

“I think the key takeaway from our study is that it’s not the quantity of what the children are hearing; it’s the quality of their language exposure that matters,” Hoff said. “They need to experience a rich environment.”

Benjamin Paley is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @benpaley92.