FAU's Language Development Lab Receives Five-Year Grant to Continue Studies of Bilingual Children
DAVIE, FL (May 17, 2011) – Florida Atlantic University's language development lab, located on the Davie campus, has received a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study language development in English monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual children from the age of 2-and-a-half to 5 years.
Erika Hoff, Ph.D., the principal investigator for the grant and an FAU psychology professor, has been studying language development in the two groups of children for the last five years, but her previous work studied the language development of younger children. With this study, she hopes to establish what constitutes normal development in the two groups to inform educators and educational policy makers.
"We're looking at two questions," said Hoff. "First, what kinds of experiences will equip the children to do well in school and have good school readiness? Secondly, how can children from Spanish-speaking homes retain their heritage language and acquire skills in English to be successful in school?"
Some factors that influence bilingual children's development are how much English is spoken in the home, how much a child is read to in Spanish and English, who is in the household, as well as if there are older siblings in the home. Part of the study will focus on which aspects of the environment are most useful for supporting language. In Hoff's previous study, she discovered that it takes children longer to acquire two languages than one, but it does not take twice as long.
Hoff said that researchers do know that children learn a language best from having conversations with others and reading books, but not from watching television. Although bilingual children take a bit longer to learn the second language, the cognitive and economic benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Bilingual children learn to inhibit one response and produce another and are therefore adept at multitasking as adults. "Children don't possess a "magical ability" to learn language," said Hoff.
FAU graduate and doctoral students will assist Hoff with the research, as well as undergraduate students who will participate in data collection and scoring, speech transcription and preparing conference presentations.
A member of the psychology faculty in FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science since 1996, Hoff is the recipient of many professional and academic honors. During a recent sabbatical leave from FAU, Hoff was a visiting scholar at Bangor University in Wales, England. She taught at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. Hoff has served as principal investigator for a number of external and internal research grants and awards. The author of five books, numerous book chapters and journal articles, Hoff is a frequent and highly respected presenter at conferences. Hoff earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan, a master's degree in science from Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.
For more information, contact FAU's language development lab at 954-236-1142 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://psy.fau.edu/~hoff/LangDevLab/index.htm.
About Florida Atlantic University:
Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit www.fau.edu .