Welsh language study finds Down syndrome not a barrier to bilingualism

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8 year old boy with Down syndrome. By Vanellus Foto (GNU)

A Welsh language study found that Down syndrome is not a barrier to bilingualism.

In what has been dubbed the first study of its kind in the UK, researchers from Bangor University examined the language of bilingual Welsh-English children with disabilities and found no evidence of additional difficulties compared to monolingual.

They compared a group of bilingual children with Down syndrome to a group of monolingual English, and not only did they find comparable performance in English, but they also found that they had considerable Welsh skills.

Medical Express explained that it expels the myth that exposure to two languages ​​can cause problems for children with Down syndrome.

The study, published in the Journal of Communication Disorders, is part of the work of Dr Rebecca Ward in the Department of Linguistics at Bangor University.

She said: “It’s really exciting to be able to share these positive research results.

“I hope this can lead to a move towards a more inclusive approach to bilingualism and confirm families’ decisions to pursue bilingualism even when faced with hesitation from others.”

“A real impact”

Dr. Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, who led the project, said: “It is a privilege to pioneer this area of ​​research and to have a real impact on people’s lives.

“Families and health professionals were previously uncertain due to the lack of evidence on bilingualism.

“I have received messages from Wales and around the world asking for advice; these positive results will provide some of the necessary certainty.

Julian Hallett, Service Development Manager at Down’s Syndrome Association, who was a partner and collaborator on this project, said: “Every child or adult should be supported to express themselves in a way that reflects their culture, family life and its community.

“We’re seeing a lot more examples of people with Down syndrome living bilingual and it’s great to have this research to describe people’s experiences in more detail.


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