Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Effects on Verbal Working Memory and Vocabulary: Testing Language-Minority Children With an Immigrant Background Purpose In this study, the authors explored the impact of test language and cultural status on vocabulary and working memory performance in multilingual language-minority children. Method Twenty 7-year-old Portuguese-speaking immigrant children living in Luxembourg completed several assessments of first (L1)- and second-language (L2) vocabulary (comprehension and production), executive-loaded ... Research Article
Research Article  |   April 01, 2013
Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Effects on Verbal Working Memory and Vocabulary: Testing Language-Minority Children With an Immigrant Background
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Pascale M. J. Engel de Abreu
    University of Luxembourg
  • Martine Baldassi
    Columbia University, Center for Decision Sciences, New York, NY
  • Marina L. Puglisi
    University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Debora M. Befi-Lopes
    University of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Correspondence to Pascale M. J. Engel de Abreu: pascale.engel@uni.lu
  • Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor and Associate Editor: Janna Oetting×
Article Information
Development / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   April 01, 2013
Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Effects on Verbal Working Memory and Vocabulary: Testing Language-Minority Children With an Immigrant Background
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 630-642. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/12-0079)
History: Received March 14, 2012 , Accepted July 31, 2012
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2013, Vol. 56, 630-642. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/12-0079)
History: Received March 14, 2012; Accepted July 31, 2012
Web of Science® Times Cited: 13

Purpose In this study, the authors explored the impact of test language and cultural status on vocabulary and working memory performance in multilingual language-minority children.

Method Twenty 7-year-old Portuguese-speaking immigrant children living in Luxembourg completed several assessments of first (L1)- and second-language (L2) vocabulary (comprehension and production), executive-loaded working memory (counting recall and backward digit recall), and verbal short-term memory (digit recall and nonword repetition). Cross-linguistic task performance was compared within individuals. The language-minority children were also compared with multilingual language-majority children from Luxembourg and Portuguese-speaking monolinguals from Brazil without an immigrant background matched on age, sex, socioeconomic status, and nonverbal reasoning.

Results Results showed that (a) verbal working memory measures involving numerical memoranda were relatively independent of test language and cultural status; (b) language status had an impact on the repetition of high- but not on low-wordlike L2 nonwords; (c) large cross-linguistic and cross-cultural effects emerged for productive vocabulary; (d) cross-cultural effects were less pronounced for vocabulary comprehension with no differences between groups if only L1 words relevant to the home context were considered.

Conclusion The study indicates that linguistic and cognitive assessments for language-minority children require careful choice among measures to ensure valid results. Implications for testing culturally and linguistically diverse children are discussed.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by the National Research Fund, Luxembourg (CO09/LM/07), and by Fundação de Amparo è Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), Brazil (2010/09185-5). We thank Carlos Tourinho for scoring the Portuguese tasks; Anabela Cruz-Santos for evaluating the lexical items of the Portuguese vocabulary measures; and Romain Martin, Flávia Santos, and Susan Gathercole for their advice on study design and recruitment. We also thank members of COST Action IS0804 “Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment” (www.bi-sli.org) for valuable discussions.
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