Texas and Seattle: Bilingual and bicultural infant project continues

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat Aug 12 15:57:38 UTC 2006

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Bilingual and bicultural infant project continues this summer

By Alison Beshur Public Affairs Specialist

(Aug. 10, 2006)--Harriett Romo, UTSA professor of sociology and director
of the UTSA Mexico Center, and two UTSA graduate students recently
traveled to Seattle, where they are collaborating with University of
Washington (UW) researchers to study language acquisition in bilingual

Romo and the UTSA students - Ricardo De La Cruz and Mara Rodriguez - have
observed and studied the effects of cultural and social environments and
influences on language acquisition in bilingual families. Researchers at
the Institute for Learning and Brain Studies (ILABS) at the University of
Washington have documented electrical brain activity and the
neuroscientific component of language recognition and acquisition in the
same study group.

The research collaborative between UTSA and UW is a part of the Learning
Informal and Formal Environments (or LIFE) center established with a
portion of a $36.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to
further understanding about the way people learn. UTSA's research has
centered on 30 families of Mexican descent with infants and varying
incomes and levels of English-Spanish language use.

"A lot of interesting things are happening in their (babies) brains,
although they are not verbal yet," Romo said. "It's advanced processing.
They're building and developing concepts and words before they are
talking." For example, some infants will wave when they hear "bye, bye"
and pick up a shoe when they hear "chancla" (Spanish word for sandle).

During their visit last week, De La Cruz presented a master's degree
research thesis on a comparison of family and community influences for
high school students who haven't maintained Spanish language use and those
who have. Rodriguez, one of a handful of graduate students working with
Romo on the research, presented findings on Communicative Developmental
Inventory (or CDI). In her study, Rodriguez identified concepts and words
spoken by the infants in the UTSA study group.



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