Language Skills of Bidialectal and Bilingual Children: Considering a Strengths-Based Perspective

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Abstract

This article examines the language and cognitive skills of bidialectal and bilingual children, focusing on African American English bidialectal speakers and Spanish-English bilingual speakers. It contributes to the discussion by considering two themes in the extant literature: (1) linguistic and cognitive strengths can be found in speaking two languages or dialects, and (2) advantages accrue when considering the groups together (or at least side-by-side) rather than separately. A strengths-based framework is proposed, whereby the goal is to identify the linguistic and cognitive strengths of these two groups that might support assessment, intervention, and culturally appropriate characterization of key language and cognitive skills. Morphosyntax, complex syntax, and narrative discourse are explored for both groups. In addition, executive function and code-switching are discussed because they relate to language and cognitive development of both bidialectal and bilingual speakers. Although some differences between the two groups are obvious, the possible similarities or intersection between the two language groups is potentially informative and may provide direction for researchers and clinicians alike.

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