Lab Presentation Round-UP

As we head into the shortest days of the year here in Edmonton, we are thinking fondly of the long warm summer days. In Summer 2021, our Multilingual Lab members had a blast presenting their research at conferences!

Keep reading to learn more about each of these conferences!

Our Master student Aunya Weich presented a poster in June 2021 at the International Child Phonology Conference (ICPC) 2021 conference . With co-authors Scott Tobin, Andrea A.N. Macleod, and Fangfang Li, the team presented on “Bilingual Speech Production in French Immersion Students: Stop Consonant Production”. This poster presentation focused on French Immersion students in grades 1,3, and 5 who completed two articulation tests. We examined the pattern of stop consonant phonological emergence as students progressed to higher grade levels. The results indicated low accuracy in word final position as well as the voiced stop consonant /g/. In addition, grade, test and word position were all found to significantly impact the stop consonant productions.

Our Ph.D. student Wendy Amaoko also presented at the International Child Phonology Conference (ICPC) 2021 conference in June 2021 With her co-authors Joseph Paul Stemberger and Mario Chávez-Peón, the team’s oral presentation was on “Methodological issues concerning tonal development: Valley Zapotec and Akan”. In this presentation, the team discussed the factors that influenced F0 which might interact with tone production in the children’s and the adult’s (native vs. nan-native speakers) perception of these tones. Preliminary acoustic exploration of possible interactions of tone with non-pitch information and the potential effects on perceived production accuracy of tones were presented.

Our Ph.D. student Negin Yousefi presented a poster at the Language, Communication, and Culture (LCC) conference in August 2021 Her presentation with co-author Andrea A.N. MacLeod was on “Methodological Issues in Researching Speech Sound Development of Bilingual Children: Considering Language Exposure and Language Proficiency”. The purpose of their presentation was to review the impact of language proficiency and language exposure on speech sound development research in bilingual children and to provide some suggestions for classifying participants based on these variables. For this purpose, studies in this area have been reviewed and the reasons for the inconsistent findings have been explored. Studies were included if they addressed speech sound and phonological development in bilingual children. 

Our PhD candidate, R. Sabah Meziane, completed two presentations this summer. Her first presentation at the Colloque étudiant CREDEF-SHERPA  in June 2021. She presented in French on: “Linguistic diversity: clinical and research perspective” (La diversité linguistique : perspective clinique et de recherche). Her presentation was on the importance of completing evaluation and intervention differently with bilingual children as well as to train professionals to better take action with those children. 

With co-author Andrea A.N. MacLeod, they presented at the International Child Phonology Conference (ICPC) 2021 conference in June 2021. Their presentation “Internal and external factors contributing to variability in consonant accuracy of Arabic-French simultaneous bilingual children.” described internal and external factors contributing to the variability consonant accuracy in Arabic-French bilingual children.

Our Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Catrine Demers, and co-author Dr. Andrea MacLeod completed an oral presentation at the Multidisciplinary Approaches in Language Policy and Planning (LPP) 2021 conference in August 2021. Their bilingual presentation was on “Informal policies of a community organization employees working with multilingual children”. They presented their results of seven interviews of employees working for a community organization that provides early childhood services for low-income families where the majority of children speak a language other than English at home. They wanted to understand how employees of a community organization feel about the development of children’s home languages and how they support this development. Their qualitative content analysis revealed that these employees had strong positive attitudes, values, and knowledge in supporting the children’s home language. Interestingly, despite the positive attitudes and knowledge, they expressed challenges in translating their attitudes and knowledge into practices to directly support multilingual children. 


Our research with Syrian refugee families was spotlighted!

Since Winter 2016, the Multilingual Families Lab has been working with students and community members to develop an innovative program to support the early language development of children who were refugees from Syria. We were excited to have our work spotlighted on the CYRRC website. CYRRC is a nationwide alliance of academics, community partners and government agencies working to promote the successful integration of refugee children, youth and their families. They have provided funding to support the research program within this work (thank you!!). We have continued this work and explored adaptations to ensure equitable access during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also developed strategies to ensure that parents are included.

Infographic from CYRRC:

Interested in learning more about our work? You can check out these open-access resources.

Our program has focused on dual-language stimulation in French and Arabic, and more recently we’ve expanded to include English and other languages. The goal has been to continue to build and enrich the first language and to introduce the language of schooling. We aimed to provide culturally appropriate activities and involved parents, community partners and administrators. In implementation, we advocate for the role of schools in finding ways to build bridges with parents and community organisations. We also believe that families should receive continued support post-migration, and supports in their first langauge. And community partnerships are important for improving refugee families’ knowledge and access to services.

We have learned so much from the families we have worked with and from our bilingual students who have contributed brilliant ideas to keep the program growing.


Bringing up multilingual children

In August, I developed and led a workshop with multilingual families who had children in ABC Head Start’s summer camp program. Over lunch, we talked about bilingualism and strategies to support children’s language development. Families shared their experiences of feeling isolated after moving to Canada and having young children. They shared feeling worried that they were not doing the right thing by speaking their home language.  They felt lucky to have had the support and encouragement of ABC Headstart to keep using their home language – but still wondered how to help support their child’s language development.  I talked about goals and practical strategies for using one’s home language.  Such an interesting discussion – thanks ABC HSS for hosting!

MLF Lab went to camp!

In July 2021, the Multilingual Families Lab partnered once again with ABC Head Start Society to provide a dual-language program in their Summer Camp! Wendy, Rita and Natalie adapted and led the activities this summer. We had so much fun collaborating with teachers to discuss bilingualism with children.  Within this summer camp context, we met with children three times to talk about being bilingual.  In our little group of children, more than 10 languages were spoken: Punjabi, Somali, German, Harari, Tagalog, Tamil, Bambara, Urdu, Malayalam and French. Amazing! We learned how to say “Hello” in different languages and read stories in multiple languages.  We helped children create their own dual-language book using their home language and their own drawings.

International Multilingualism Day

The Multilingual Families Lab is celebrating International Multilingualism Day!

International Multilingualism Day aims to celebrate linguistic diversity and the multi-layered way we use languages in our everyday lives. For many families, speaking more than one language has many advantages, from maintaining ties with your extended family to opening up job opportunities. Research in our lab is contributing to a broader understanding of multilingual language development: all children can learn more than one language. Keys to this learning are fostering opportunities, valuing the languages being learned, and making it fun.

A key message of International Multilingualism Day: “There is no *right* way to do languages. There is only your way. And that’s what matters.” We could not have said it better!

Inspired by Aviak Johnston’s book “What is your superpower?“, our lab brainstormed about what brought us together as students, researchers, and individuals. What brought us together is our languageS and cultureS – we are excited to learn from our families and each other and connect. We have integrated this in our lab motto – and made it multilingual! It was fun to put our collective 12 languages to work to share our superpowers.

Lab Motto

Join us in celebrate multilingualism – in whatever way that looks like for you!


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