Geater diversity for a better understanding of language acquisition.
Most studies of language acquisition are carried out by scientists based in a limited number of countries, who generally study children from their own country. This lack of diversity has a negative impact on research into early language development. A study published in the Journal of Cognition and Development shows the positive impact of organising the first international online school on language acquisition, the Global International Summer/Winter School on Language Acquisition.
Understanding how children develop language is important for many reasons, including to better diagnose and treat language and communicative disorders. But today's theories are created by researchers based in a handful of countries, and they typically study children growing up in those places: According to a recent study, almost 90% of child participants were from North America and Western Europe, where less than 10% of the world's children are growing up.
A study published in the Journal of Cognition and Development shows the positive impact of organising the first international online school on language acquisition, the Global International Summer/Winter School on Language Acquisition. The aim of the school was to share expertise on early language development with students from all over the world and to demonstrate the importance of providing the widest possible access to knowledge and technology for the entire international community.
"In my experience, every country wants to give their children the best chance to thrive" says CNRS researcher Alejandrina Cristia. "But in many countries, funding to research language development is limited." Dr. Cristia is part of an international team that aims to give university students everywhere the chance to learn more about cutting edge theories and methods to study language development. They organized the First Truly Global/L+/International Summer/Winter School on Language Acquisition (/L+/). This was an online five-day school program, split over three time zones, with 95 volunteers from 35 different countries working together.
It was clear that the school filled an important need: there were nearly 1,000 registrations. The organizers gave all of them access to pre-recorded lectures, and selected 300 to attend the live parts school program, with 80% from low- and middle-income countries. "We know that live interaction helps learning, but we couldn't manage so many participants, so we had to select," explains Dr. Cristia.
The school happened online to allow participants from everywhere to connect, lowering the travel cost. The lectures focused on foundational theoretical knowledge on language acquisition and research design, with live practical sessions providing hands-on experience with different methodologies. Finally, a series of networking events strengthened connections between students, organizers, and volunteers.
By the end, 99% of the participants who gave feedback mentioned that they enjoyed taking part in the school, and a third of them expressed interest in helping organize the next edition. Dr. Cristia holds a lot of hope for such initiatives, aimed at empowering future researchers everywhere to investigate and publish on language development in their home countries. "Increasing the diversity of the researchers who study language development will eventually help our science and applications better serve children everywhere".
Aravena-Bravo, P., Cristia, A., Garcia, R., Kotera, H., Kunene Nicolas, R., Laranjo, R., ... & Woon, F. T. (sous presse). Towards Diversifying Early Language Development Research: First Truly Global International Summer/Winter School on Language Acquisition (/L+/) 2021. Journal of Cognition and Development. doi: 10.1080/15248372.2023.2231083