Interviews with an expert: Language Learning Activities and Learning Disorders

Interviewing experts in the field of language acquisition

I began a process of reaching out and interviewing experts in the field of bilingualism and second language acquisition starting early in 2021. The most recent interview I did was with a wonderful researcher based in Italy named, Mirta Vernice. Her area of focus is on psycholinguistics, specifically looking at young children and their language development processes in two or more languages.

Our conversation

We focused our conversation on two main topics:
1. Her work with implementing research designed English teaching activities into real-world classrooms for preschools
2. Research findings that bilingualism offers protection to cognitive abilities among children with learning disorders.

The full write up will be available in Japanese (here) and in English (here).

Here are some highlights and key takeaways from the talk:

- Activities to support language acquisition benefit children differently depending on their age. Mirta described how activities designed for children from ages 0-3 should focus on comprehension rather than production, which is appropriate for children beyond 4 years old. This includes sensitivity to speech sounds and grammatical structures which can be acquired through making the activity interactive and relatable to the child's context.

- Some categories of these activities include, role-playing, categorization,  songs, and story telling.

- Learning disorders such as dyslexia include more than just a reading difficulty, rather it effects children in multiple ways. At the core it is an automatization difficulty, which makes it harder to acquire any form of learning compared to other typical developing children.

- It also affects organization and decision making in the executive function of the brain. A recent study that is being written currently, shows that bilinguals with dyslexia performed equally to their non-dyslexic monolingual peers. She suggests that bilingualism or having two or more languages provides protection from executive function weaknesses. This is huge because it is still very common for speech therapists or teachers to suggest for children with learning disorders to only focus on one language at a time, when the research is saying the opposite.


For parents worried about their child's ability to learn due to developmental disorders, the research supports you. If you want your child to learn a second or third language, it is okay to start young, it will not damage your child. If your children are against learning the other language don't force them. However, there are strategies that could help boost motivation for language learning which you can try, but remember it is a cooperative process with you and your child.

In future posts I will share some of the English learning activities Mirta shared with me. I will test it on my 2 year old daughter and share the results.