Influence of additional language learning on first language learning in children with language disorders

Carol K.S. To*, Thomas Law, Xin Xin Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Multilingualism can bring about various positive outcomes to typically developing children. Its effect on children with language difficulties is not yet clear. Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the effects of multilingual learning as a medium of instruction (MOI) on first language (L1) acquisition of children with language disorders (LD). Methods & Procedures: Nineteen Cantonese-speaking students aged 5;8-6;8 who were diagnosed with LD were recruited from a school that used Putonghua (an alternative Chinese dialect) as the MOI when learning Chinese language and were compared with 18 age-and-gender-matched Cantonese-speaking students with LD from a school that used Cantonese as the MOI when learning Chinese language. All the students also learned English (L2) as a subject at school. Proficiency in Cantonese was tested at the beginning and the end of the semester in Grade One in terms of: (1) grammar, (2) expressive vocabulary, (3) auditory textual comprehension, (4) word definition and (5) narration. Outcomes & Results: Mixed-model ANOVAs revealed an effect of time on language proficiency indicating positive gains in both groups. Interaction effects between time and group were not significant. There was a trend that children learning Putonghua showed slightly more improvement in auditory textual comprehension. Conclusions & Implications: Proficiency gains were similar across groups. The study found no evidence that a multilingual learning environment hinders the language proficiency in L1 in students who have LD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-216
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Communication Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

User-Defined Keywords

  • education
  • language disorder
  • multilingualism


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