The Linguist

The Linguist 55,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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18 The Linguist Vol/55 No/3 2016 FEATURES When supporting bilingual clients, speech and language therapists and interpreters must work together, finds Jessica Moore W hen you're building a house, you can't start the second storey before the ground floor is stable," points out Dr Henriette Langdon, professor of communicative disorders at San José State University, south-west America. The same is true of language-learning. "If someone has problems acquiring a first language, that will affect their ability to learn any consequent languages." With ever-increasing numbers of bilingual families in the UK, this is an issue our speech and language therapists (SLTs) face every day. "Twenty years ago, there were far fewer bilingual cases – and virtually no mention of bilingualism in SLT training courses. Today, 75% of the children I work with are learning English as an additional language," says Anne McCaffrey, an SLT at Leeds Community Healthcare Trust. "Society has changed but the training hasn't kept up." The impact is worrying, says Dr Sean Pert, a specialist bilingual SLT and senior lecturer in speech and language at the University of Manchester. "Very few SLTs are confident working with bilingual clients," he notes. And while bilingualism in itself doesn't cause speech and language problems, "it can hide a problem and make assessments and treatment more complex. If a teacher doesn't speak the child's first language, for example, they won't spot errors." As for parents, "many don't know our services exist," admits Pert – and McCaffrey highlights a deeper issue. "Sometimes, families come to the UK and decide they're going to speak English. But if the parents haven't got good English, they give poor language models, so then they're neither resolving their child's problems in the first language nor helping them with English. It's a double-whammy. That's why we always advise keeping the first language going at home." Pert agrees: "If you can crack the code in the home language, English will follow, so we need to assess and treat in the home language." That's a big challenge, he says, because the resources simply don't exist. "For an English-speaking child, there are vocabulary tests, speech tests and language tests with normative data that SLTs can pull off the shelf – but it wouldn't be fair to use those tests to assess a bilingual child who's only been speaking English for a couple of terms. He's unlikely to score very highly. That isn't necessarily an indication of a speech or language problem though. I can't speak Cantonese but I don't need speech therapy!" He continues: "So the SLT needs to create tests in the home language, and find out about that language's grammar and morphology. They should transcribe a confident speaker in that language to make word-lists of sounds and understand how they should be used. Then the SLT will be able to start working with an interpreter." This is as time-consuming as it sounds. "Even as an experienced SLT, it would take me twice as long with a bilingual client to get to the same end point." And, as Langdon says, "Developing your own resources all sounds very nice – but how would I do that in Farsi? I don't speak Farsi. How would I monitor whether the interpreter is using the resources? How could I understand the problems the child is likely to have?" Working with multiple languages Another issue in the UK is diversity. Carly Hartshorn is an SLT specialising in bilingualism at the Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale NHS Trust. A recent database triage of 100 referrals in the region found clients speaking 33 different languages. That's a lot of research to do; a lot of resources to create – especially as the local demographic is changing. "This area historically had a lot of Pakistani-heritage and Bangla-speaking Strong founda

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