Can children with DLD learn a second language?

Tribushinina, E., Dubinkina-Elgart, E., & Rabkina, N. (2020). Can children with DLD acquire a second language in a foreign-language classroom? Effects of age and cross-language relationships. Journal of Communication Disorders, 88, 106049.


Aim of the paper:


There is little research on foreign language learning in children with DLD. This paper looks at how children with DLD respond to second language learning by following the development of Russian (as first language) and English (as Foreign Language) skills in a group of primary-school children with and without DLD at three time points (1, 1.5 and 2 years after the beginning of English lessons).



What they found:

· Children with DLD had less exposure to English outside of classroom


· There was no significant difference in English vocabulary and grammar at time 1 between children with and without DLD.


· Children without DLD improved in English vocabulary and grammar from time 1 to time 2 and 3. There was no significant improvement for children with DLD.


· Children with DLD learnt vocabulary faster if they start English lessons at an older age.


· Russian vocabulary predicted English vocabulary size in children with and without DLD. Russian grammar predicted English grammar performance only in children without DLD.



What does this mean?


The results suggest that children without DLD can learn a second language after language lessons, whereas children with DLD learn a second language more slowly. While this may be due to the poorer language learning ability in children with DLD, it can also be explained by the reduced exposure to the second language outside classroom. The researchers suggest that further research is needed to look at why children with DLD struggle to learn second languages, but perhaps parents should provide children with DLD with more extra-curricular exposure to the second language instead of limiting their exposure.


Also, it was found that children with DLD learnt vocabulary faster if they start English lessons at an older age.This may be due to the fact that older children have more developed cognitive skills and vocabulary from their first language. Children with DLD may be able to best acquire a second language when their first language is more advanced, which happens at a later age.



Where can I read this paper?


This paper is open access, which means everyone can read it. Please click here to find the full paper.