Sadler Seminar series on "Young bilinguals and their language of schooling"

(In England, 19.4% of the primary school population have a mother tongue other than English (Statistical First Release January 2015). Yet, in an increasingly multicultural UK society we still  know very little about the linguistic skills of children growing up with more than one language. Language proficiency has an impact on children’s ability to learn (spanning all aspects of the curriculum) and on their current and future ability to integrate in society.

This seminar series, funded by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute, brings together psychologists, education specialists and linguists to explore issues related to

  • the assessment of bilingual children’s proficiency in the language of schooling;
  • how to measure the amount and quality of bilinguals’ experience in each of their languages;
  • the complex relationships between language proficiency, cognitive development and well-being;
  • intervention programmes aiming to support bilingual children’s language development.

The talks listed below will all take place in Seminar Room 1 at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute.  The generous amount of time scheduled for each session is to allow time for informal discussion after the talk(s).  All welcome.


Date Time Presenters Titles (scroll down for abstracts)
13-Oct 9:00-12:00 Philippe Prévost and Laurie Tuller (University of Tours, France) Language dominance based on a questionnaire for parents of bilingual children (PABIQ): child bilingualism in France
Sharon Unsworth (University of Nijmegen, NL) Quantifying bilingual experience: using the (U)BiLEC to estimate input quantity and quality
Cécile De Cat (University of Leeds) and Ludovica Serratrice (University of Reading) The Bilingual Profile Index: a gradient measure of bilingual experience
09-Nov 2:00-2:30 Ekaterini Klepousniotou and Amanda Waterman (University of Leeds) Planning for language testing in the Born in Bradford cohort
2:30-3:30 Meesha Warmington (University of Sheffiled) Cognition in Bilinguals: Comparative Evidence from the UK and India.
23-Nov 1:30-2:30 Allegra Cattani (University of Plymouth) Every bilingual child is different: Effect of exposure and additional language on the vocabulary at age 2
07-Dec 2:00-3:00 Silke Fricke (University of Sheffield) Early Language Intervention for Children learning English as an Additional Language
3:15-4:15 Claudine Bowyer-Crane (University of Sheffield) Development of a vocabulary screener for young children speaking multiple languages
26-Jan 2:00-4:00 Victoria Murphy (University of Oxford) Developing and supporting vocabulary knowledge in EAL pupils



  • “Quantifying bilingualism” workshop: Researchers from three labs will present their methodology to quantify bilingualism in light of its purpose (e.g. distinguishing bilingual children with a language developmental disorders from bilingual children with a normal delay due to reduced exposure). This is the first step towards establishing a common denominator to quantify bilingualism across data sets, and to identify aspects of language proficiency that could be investigated using this common measure.
  • Ekaterini Klepousniotou & Amanda Waterman: The Born in Bradford longitudinal cohort study is following the lives of over 13,500 children and their families to learn how we can improve health and educational outcomes. A huge range of data are being collected, including lifestyle information, SES, genetic information, biomarkers, environmental factors, health records, and education records. In addition we are running a cognitive/motor test battery on all the children that measures sensorimotor processes and executive function. In addition to this, nested studies will be run within the cohort to look at other key cognitive constructs including speech and language abilities. This is particularly interesting in the BIB cohort given the ethnic diversity within Bradford, with half the cohort having South East Asian heritage, and therefore raising interesting questions about bilingualism.
  • Meesha Warmington: This talk explores whether substantial evidence exists to support claims that bilingualism has systematic and enduring consequences for neuro-cognitive functioning. Employing multiple exemplar tasks I will present behavioural data regarding the aspects of executive control that are privileged in bilingualism, based on data from Hindi-English bilingual children living in the UK and India.
  • Allegra Cattani: Monolingual and bilingual toddlers have an equal chance to be born with developmental language disorders, bilingual toddlers do not have an equal opportunity to be identified given that the current assessment tests are tailored for monolinguals but are not sensitive to bilingual toddlers. Multiple factors are exploited to accurately quantify the bilingual experience of young children in the lexical comprehension and production.  The most robust predictor of English and Additional Language (AL) was found for exposure to English, which positively predicts both comprehension and production in the English lexicon.  The presentation is aimed at guiding health professionals and educators with step-by-step explanation to determine the percentage of the time a toddler hears English and subsequently to be able to interpret the performance on standardised tests.
  • Silke Fricke: Successful literacy development and educational attainment involves more than learning to decode words. In order to follow the curriculum and acquire new knowledge and skills, children must understand the language used by teachers as well as understand what they read. Oral language skills are therefore important for children’s communication, literacy development, and school participation. The talk will focus on boosting oral language as a foundation for literacy in the Early Years (UK nursery and Reception) so children build a stronger oral language foundation for entering school. It will draw on different school-based work from relevant research projects in the UK. While different populations of pupils (e.g. monolingual children with language weaknesses) will be considered the focus will be on children learning English as an additional language (EAL). The talk will emphasize the importance as well as challenges of early interventions to provide children with EAL with a secure language foundation for school participation. Conclusions are drawn for the practice of supporting oral language in preschool settings.
  • Claudine Bowyer-Crane: The number of children in UK primary schools learning English as an additional language is growing. A consistent achievement gap is found in national assessments of language and literacy between children learning EAL and their monolingual peers at the early stages of schooling. Support for these pupils is vital. However, in order to provide the right support it is important to identify those children who have a language impairment from those who may simply need more exposure to English. This paper will highlight some of the issues around the assessment children learning English as an Additional Language with a particular focus on vocabulary. Drawing on recent research, the paper will discuss the importance of assessing children in both their first and second languages and the challenge this poses for practitioners. The paper will demonstrate a newly developed task for assessing receptive vocabulary in a child’s home language which is designed to be used by practitioners and researchers working with children learning EAL.
  • Victoria Murphy: The developing language and literacy skills of children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) is a global concern given increasing numbers of children are being educated through the medium of English without having English as their home or native language. One of the key factors that has been shown to predict both reading and writing in primary school children is vocabulary knowledge. When considering the role of vocabulary in literacy development both researchers and teachers typically examine vocabulary breadth. In this presentation, I will discuss other dimensions of vocabulary knowledge (i.e., vocabulary depth) which includes collocational, idiomatic and metaphorical dimensions of lexis. I will present the results of research examining the nature and possible development of these more extended and figurative aspects of vocabulary knowledge in bilingual children and discuss the role that this type of lexis might play in developing reading and writing skills in primary school children with EAL. The discussion of these findings will be contextualised within both theoretical and applied implications.