Hi Reddit – it’s great to be here! I am a senior lecturer in Developmental Psychology. My research looks at how difficulties in learning language in early childhood impacts other areas of children’s development, such as getting along with others. I mainly look at children with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), or a primary problem with using and/or understanding language. This disorder affects 7.6% of children and often goes undiagnosed. I have written articles to help parents understand.

I am part of a project to help people affected by DLD better under the science and the research looking at DLD. We also link these parents and adults to new research studies – by improving our understanding of DLD we will improve treatments, leading to better outcomes for children with DLD. The project is called Engage with Development Language Disorder! https://www.engage-dld.com/

Although I currently focus on children with DLD, I also know a lot about how children learn language without any problems! Please ask me anything about language development.

I’ll be online to answer questions on Friday 3 November from 2.00 - 3.00pm GMT

Proof: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uniofbath/53303030483/

Comments: 42 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

atTheRealMrKuntz13 karma

maybe dull question but I have a one year old (first child) and we're raising him bilingual (icelandic & french, we usually speak english between me & my partner) - i'm pretty much the only person around him speaking french to him; what would be your advices for a smooth and efficient learning of both languages ?

MichelleStClairBath26 karma

I would suggest consistency. If you consistently speak French with your child, he will learn French. If you stay consistent throughout his childhood, he will both understand French and learn to speak it as well. If there is a lack of consistency, sometimes people can develop good understanding of a language, but lack the ability to converse easily in that language. With sufficient exposure, your child could become trilingual, particularly if Icelandic and English are taught in school (note: I am assuming you are raising your child in Iceland and that schools may teach English, but I acknowledge these are two big assumptions!)

It is of note that multilingualism is the norm globally, although monolinguism is often represented as the norm! And monolingualism, particularly English monolingualism, is overstudied within the scientific literature.

Annual-Mud-9876 karma

Hi Michelle, your work sounds really interesting! 7.6% sounds like quite a lot of children so why is DLD often undiagnosed? Are people (and doctors) just not aware of it?

MichelleStClairBath4 karma

You are right - the public awareness of DLD is low, which translates to doctors being also unaware of DLD or at least of the high prevalence of DLD. I think most doctors are aware that language development sometimes doesn't proceed normally.

MichelleStClairBath6 karma

I'll just answer a bit more, as there are no other questions yet! I think DLD often going undiagnosed because children are very good at hiding or trying to not appear as if they don't understand. They may decide to just go under a table at school if they don't know what they are meant to do. Therefore, the more pressing issue is the behaviour, not necessary language. If a child does have behavioural issues, particularly when they reach school age, language should be a factor investigated. These children are often very smart, but do not understand why they are struggling. So they hide it and it goes unnoticed far too often.

MichelleStClairBath5 karma

Hi Everyone - Thanks for all the questions. As usual, it's been a pleasure to answer your questions this past hour. If you are interested in DLD research, please learn more here: https://www.engage-dld.com You can considering signing up to our project if you have a child with DLD or have DLD or think you might have DLD yourself.

Thanks again!

CuriousRedPandaBear4 karma

Hi Michelle, thank you for sharing your research. Is DLD more common in some languages than others or does it present differently?

MichelleStClairBath4 karma

Hi - I think the research indicates the prevalence of DLD is relatively consistent across languages. DLD occurs in all languages, but it might result in different patterns of strength and weaknesses differently in different languages. To be honest, we need much more research on DLD in different languages to more fully address this question. But if DLD is present in one language, it will be present in a second language if the child is bilingual. And DLD is not a good reason to not exposure a child to multiple languages, if that is their cultural background.

LurkBot90001 karma

This may be completely off topic so apologies in advance

I get frustrated with English spelling as it pulls from several other languages for its spelling patterns. Things like the use of double letters that dont follow phonetic rules leave me spell checking way more than I would in a phonetic language.

Also, its common use of single words to mean several different things. I see, specifically in places like Reddit, people getting in arguments using semantic rebuttals to deflect the entire discussion. Im struggling to think of a good example in the moment, but hopefully Im not the only one noticing that

I think that because language is fluid that second point might be impossible to prevent though

Anyway my question is, is there anything like a 'perfect' language or if you could make a new language what would the features of it be?

MichelleStClairBath5 karma

Hi - language creation is not really my area, but is fascinating. What we need to understand is even if you built a "perfect" language, with language use it would change. Language is not static and is constantly evolving. For instance, I never use the word "overwhelm" as a noun, like I would anxiety. I would talk about overwhelming feelings. However, use of overwhelm on its own is more and more common, particularly amongst people who are younger than myself!

However, I can sympathise with you that English spellings. English spellings are not what we call "transparent". If you learn languages like Italian there is a much clearer link between sounds and letters.

Unfortunately, I am not an expert in language construction, so can't comment on what features it would be. However, I hope this response is interesting to you!

Slipacre1 karma

Of this 7.6% How what other conditions play a role, hearing, autism, or other developmental disorders? Also is there a correlation to “problematic “ households? Thanks

MichelleStClairBath2 karma

Hi - hearing loss, autism and other genetic conditions (such as Williams Syndrome or Down Syndrome) are exclusionary criteria for DLD. You can have a language disorder associated with autism, though, for example. DLD is generally diagnosed in the absence of any other potential cause of language disorder.

DLD is a bit more common in lower SES households, but it does occur across all SES strata. The association with lower SES may be due to the fact that DLD is heritary and DLD (diagnosed or undiagnosed) may have a negative impact on employment opportunities. Research is just beginning to look at the impact of undiagnosed DLD in adulthood.

CrapsLord1 karma

Do you see any relation between language disorders and multiple languages in early childhood? Especially in cases with more than two languages?

MichelleStClairBath6 karma

DLD is not caused by multilingualism and the current recommendations are to continue to exposure children with DLD to all languages in their environment. So no, there is no real relationship between multiple languages and DLD. DLD is a neurodivergent disorder, like autism, and is not caused by the environment.