July 31, 2011

First Nations, Métis and Inuit People of Canada

While in Canada I have had the opportunity to learn about the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Canada. People I have learned from include:
  • Prof May Bernhardt who teaches a course at the University of British Columbia about working with First Nations people,
  • Heather Campbell who is undertaking research about bi-dialectal First Nations speakers, and
  • Deanne Zeidler who has worked as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) with the First Nations people north of Vancouver for 17 years. Deanne has co-authored a family program called Talk, Learn, and Grow.  She has also uses the Moe the Mouse phonological awareness program. She is going to co-present a 1 hour session on her work at the American Speech-Language-Hearing convention in November.
One important thing that I have learned is that individualised assessment often is not appropriate when working with First Nations people. Talking with the community about their dreams for the future (for the whole community including its children) is the most important place to start. Standardized testing is not relevant, so many SLPs ask parents and teachers to talk to the children so that language samples can be elicited, then discussed together. Some have suggested that amongst First Nations people, disability is accommodated, so there is not as much urgency about speech and language difficulties as there is within English-speaking contexts.
Prof Joe Stemberger, Prof May Bernhardt, and Sharynne
with the totem poles from different nations in Stanley Park, Vancouver
Inukshuk at Whistler (a wonderfully scenic location;
however, inukshuks are normally found amongst Inuit people in the Artic Circle)
First Nations Cultural Centre at Whistler
There are 16 dialects of the Coast Salish family. Two dialects are Squamish and Lil'wat. At Whistler, the Squamish and Lilwat Nations have cooperated and open Cultural Centre providing artefacts and narrative about the two Nations. I found this quote to be very powerful in the context of maintaining these languages, and ensuring that First Nations children continue to learn them:
"Without our language there is no culture; without our culture there is no language" Johnny S. Abraham, Lil'wat Nation.
Deanne Zeidler and Sharynne near Lilooet (home of Lil'wat people)

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prof May Bernhardt and Prof Joe Stemberger have hosted my stay in Vancouver. While here I have presented a seminar at the University of British Columbia (UBC) titled International speech acquisition: An Australian perspective.

L-R: Prof May Berhnardt, Daniel Berube, Heather Campbell, Sharynne, Sandy Taylor,
Dr Stefka Marinova-Todd, Dr Donald Derrick
May, Joe, Stefka, and the team have been working on a large cross-linguistic study of typical speech acquisition. They have developed a speech assessment, and scan analysis in the following languages:
Kuwaiti Arabic, Bulgarian, Canadian English, Manatoba French, German, Slovanian, Icelandic, Shanghai Mandarin, Japanese, Hungarian, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Punjabi.
They also have tested 30 typical children in most of these languages. Their assessments and analyses will be made available on the UBC website in the future.
Meeting Dr Stefka Marinova-Todd who co-authored the chapter
on Filipino in the International Guide to Speech Acquisition

Bidialectal Jamaican speech

While in Toronto, Dr Karla Washington and I have been preparing to undertake research into Jamaican children's speech acquisition. Jamaican children are bi-dialectal, speaking the Jamaican English (for school and other more formal occasions) and Jamaican Patois (for other occasions).

Karla has written a chapter titled: Translation to Practice: Typical Bidialectal Speech Acquisition in Jamaica  in the forthcoming McLeod & Goldstein book. She has written: "In Jamaica, Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole are the two polar co-occurring language varieties. Jamaican English is putatively the “Queen’s English”, the acrolect, and is used formally both in oral and written forms (Irvine, 2004). Alternately, Jamaican Creole the basilect, is considered an oral language resulting from multiple etymologies, including English, West African, and French languages (Cassidy, 1966) that is used informally (Irvine, 2004; 2008). Jamaicans are typically introduced to Jamaican Creole and Jamaican English from birth (Irvine, 2004; Meade, 2001), making them simultaneous language learners. Jamaican children therefore enter the school system speaking both Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole; however, the language of instruction in schools is Jamaican English (Brown-Blake, 2008; Irvine, 2004). Jamaican Creole phonology consists of 33 different phonemes, comprising 21 consonants and 12 vowels (Devonish & Harry, 2004; Harry, 2006)..."

As part of the preparation, I have enjoyed eating Jamaican food, including ackee and salted codfish, the Jamaican national dish.
Top L- Lower R: Dumplings, ackee and salted codfish, plantains, boiled green bananas,
Text message written in Jamaican Creole

Learning in London and Toronto, ON, Canada

Dr Karla Washington has hosted my visit to Ontario, Canada.
During my stay we have visited the University of Western Ontario (in London, ON), and have met Prof Geneese Warr-Leeper, who developed TykeTalk and has published a book for parents in English and French titled: Helping Kids Discover and Develop Language.
Dr Karla Washington and Prof Geneese Warr-Leeper

Dr Karla Washington and Sharynne at University of Western Ontario
I also presented an invited seminar at Bloorview Research Institute in Toronto titled: Children's speech: Prevalence, risk and impact of speech sound disorder. While there, I met with Prof. Nancy Thomas-Stonell, who has created the FOCUS (Focus on Children under Six), an outcome measure based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.

Sharynne, Prof Nancy Thomas-Stonell, and Dr Karla Washington

July 24, 2011

International Association for the Study of Child Language

From 19-23 July I attended the 12th meeting of the International Association for the Study of Child Language (IASCL) held at the Université du Québec à Montréal in Canada. The program included 63 thematic symposia (250 papers) and 343 posters. I had the opportunity to hear papers from many experts including
Fred Genesee: Myths and misunderstandings about dual language acquisition in young learners
Simon E. Fisher: Building bridges between genes, brains and language
Deb Roy: A study of language development in context (see here for YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwgkT34g61w)

I presented a poster titled: Linguistic diversity in a nationally representative sample of Australian 4- to 5-year-old children and their parents.

I also enjoyed meeting authors of chapters from the International Guide to Speech Acquisition (McLeod, 2007) on French and Finnish. Previously I had only corresponded with them via email. It has been exciting to see the additional research that has been undertaken since 2007 in French and Finnish regarding children's speech acquisition.

Tuula Savinainen-Makkonen, Sharynne, and Sari Kunnari

Sharynne and Prof Yvan Rose - Memorial University of Newfoundland

Listening to children and young people with speech, language and communication needs

While in Montreal, Prof Sue Roulstone (from the University of the West of England) and I have finished and submitted a book titled: Listening to children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. This book began last year, when I was visiting Bristol.

The book profiles the voice of the children and young people with speech, language and communication needs. Throughout the book, many examples of children’s opinions and thoughts are included, delivered via a range of frontiers, including art, photographs, and quotes.

Fifty people have contributed chapters to this book providing insights from speech and language therapists, social workers, psychologists, teachers, researchers, advocates, parents, and young people with speech, language and communication needs.
*Part I provides views about the importance of listening to children written by advocates for children with speech, language and communication needs.
*Part II unpacks the complexities and issues, providing theoretical perspectives about the listening process.
*Part III contains real life examples of listening to children and young people through structured reports of research and clinical projects. One of the aims of this part is to document a range of creative techniques and solutions for listening to children and young people. Additionally, Part III includes key messages from children and young people with speech, language and communication needs about their lives, and their insights into how services can be improved to better accommodate their needs.

It is our hope that book will provide direction for health, education, and social care services to enhance the lives of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs.
Prof Sue Roulstone and Sharynne with a sample version of their new book

Multilingual Montréal (Quebec, Canada)

Montréalers have impressed me with the ease that they switch between French and English. The 2006 census
indicated 59.9% of the population speaks French at home while 19.4% speaks English; however, many Montréalers are bilingual French-English.

In Quebec, if information is provided in a public place, then the English text should be 40% of the size of the French text.

While in Montréal I visited Isabelle Simard’s multilingual speech-language pathology clinic where she provides assessments and interventions in many languages.
I have also visited and talked with people from the two universities in Montréal that educates speech-language pathologists. McGill is an English university and the University of Montréal is a French university.

Isabelle Simard and Sharynne at Université de Montréal

I enjoyed meeting with Prof. Susan Rvachew and Prof. Elin Thordadottir of McGill University. We discussed multilingual perception and production of speech and language, and ideas for assessments. We also discussed Susan’s new book: Developmental Phonological Disorders: Foundations of Clinical Practice.
Prof Elin Thordardottir, Prof Susan Rvachew, Sharynne

July 23, 2011

AusTalk: A national treasure

The aim of AusTalk is to create a corpus of  high quality audio/videos of the speech of 1000 Australian adults. Each adult is recorded 3 times for an hour each time, resulting in a rich source of content that can be used in many applications, including forensics, computer science, hearing aid/cochlear implant technology, and speech pathology.
AusTalk is funded by the Australian Research Council and I have been honoured to oversee the Bathurst (Charles Sturt University) site of data collection. Rebekah Lockart is the extremely capable research assistant on the project. Bathurst is one of only 4 rural sites, the others are Geelong, Armidale, and Alice Springs. The University of Western Sydney is overseeing AusTalk.

For more information about AusTalk see: http://www.austalk.edu.au/
For the CSU media release see: here

Rebekah with the AusTalk equipment (black box)

Recording Australian speech

July 14, 2011

Developing quantitative research skills through longitudinal datasets

Researchers from Charles Sturt University, Queensland University of Technology and Monash University met in Bathurst for a 2-day research workshop titled "Children's development, learning and well-being in the early years: Developing quantitative research skills through longitudinal datasets". The workshop and presentations were lead by A. Prof Linda Harrison and the primary focus was on the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. We learned about FLoSsE: the Australian Government's Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA's) Longitudinal Surveys Electronic (FLoSse) Research archive that compiles research from:
  • Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), (Growing Up in Australia)
  • Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC), (Footprints in Time)
  • Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA)(Living in Australia)
During the workshop I was author/coauthor on the following presentations:
  • Linguistic diversity in a nationally representative sample of Australian 4- to 5-year-old children
  • School outcomes for children identified with communication impairment in early childhood

July 2, 2011

Supporting monolingual speech pathologists' assessment of multilingual children

During 2011 I am very fortunate to be working with Rebekah Lockart, a masters student in the speech pathology program at Macquarie University. Her thesis is titled: "Factors that enhance Australian speech-language pathologists’ assessment of the speech of Cantonese-speaking children".
Rebekah and I will be working on the protocols and procedures for her research over the next few weeks. We are grateful for advice about Cantonese from Dr Carol To (Hong Kong University) and Dr Mun Yee Lai (Charles Sturt University).

Dr Mun Yee Lai, Rebekah Lockart, and Sharynne