Bilingualism - Challenges and benefits to classroom performance (Lancaster University)

BPS Learning Centre Approved

This course has been approved by the BPS Learning Centre for the purposes of Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The course is offered by the Lancaster University.

Course information has been provided by Lancaster University.

In many regions of the world it is commonplace for children to be exposed to two languages from birth. In recent years the rate of bilingualism- the ability to speak two languages - has steadily increased in Britain and Europe due in part to the establishment of the European Union, ease of mobility between countries, and immigration (Baker, 2006).

But what are the challenges for teachers educating bilingual children? Is literacy development effected by bilingualism? How can the classroom environment be optimized to best support bilingual children’s learning?

The course "Bilingualism: Challenges & Benefits to classroom performance" will address the benefits of bilingualism, the challenges facing teachers of bilingual children, and the implications of being a bilingual child in a monolingual classroom.

The aim of the event is to share knowledge between educators, clinicians, policy makers, academics, and parents to facilitate understanding of the bilingual child and how best to support their language and literacy needs in the classroom.


Our speakers are:

  • Prof Antonella Sorace, University of Edinburgh and Director of Bilingualism Matters
  • Dr. Carol Stow, bilingual speech language therapist
  • Dr. Jane Hutchison, University of Central Lancashire: Language and literacy in bilingual children
  • Prof Virginia Gathercole, ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice: language disorders in bilingual children
  • Dr. Karen Mattock, Lancaster University, Speech perception, production, and word learning in monolingual and bilingual infants

Our speakers are experts in a range of areas of bilingual development. Presentations from the invited speakers will be followed by an general discussion giving teachers, clinicians, parents, and policy makers the opportunity to discuss issues and share advice on the issues facing bilingual children and educators of bilingual children. We will foster a reciprocal learning environment in which everyone will be encouraged to share their experiences about teaching and facilitating learning in bilingual children.

Learning outcomes and objectives

On successful completion of this CPD course participants should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the benefits of and challenges faced by bilingual children and the implications to scholastic achievement
  • discuss how literacy development differs for monolingual and bilingual children,
  • demonstrate understanding of the speech and language learning difficulties in bilingual children
  • understand how to support bilingual diversity in the classroom setting
  • be knowledgeable of teaching and learning strategies and interventions to support bilingual children’s learning,

Psychological theory underpinning the event

In the early twentieth century the argument from the psychology and education camps was that bilingualism led to linguistic confusion, lower intelligence and was detrimental to psychological health (see Hakuta, 1986; Portes & Schauffler, 1984). This view was challenged in earnest by Peal and Lambert (1962) who found that true bilingual children, those who can communicate competently in both their languages, benefit from a greater degree of cognitive flexibility and ability to cope with abstract concepts than their monolingual peers. Today, it is generally accepted that bilingualism proffers cognitive advantages, both in language-specific ways (Bruck & Genesee, 1995) and more generally in terms of advanced inhibitory control and information processing abilities (Bialystok & Senman, 2004). But being a true bilingual is only one profile and many children in UK classrooms have English as a second language - and many are learning to speak English and read English simultaneously. The classroom environment can be particularly challenging for these children and their teacher. It is vital that we fully understand the benefits and challenges of bilingualism because this has direct implications for educational policy and practice and can help teachers, parents, and speech language therapists of bilingual children better understand and support the language development of the bilingual child.

Dr. Karen Mattock

Dr. Karen Mattock is a RCUK Fellow in the Department of Psychology, Lancaster University, U.K. She obtained a Bachelor of Psychology (hons Class I) from the University of Wollongong and PhD (Psychology) from MARCS, University of Western Sydney. Prior to joining Lancaster in 2007 she was a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University. Mattock investigates the development of speech perception, speech production, and word learning in infants learning one versus two languages. She is experienced in leading CPD accredited courses and workshops. In 2009 she led a session on infants’ speech perception at the 3rd Phonak Virtual Audiology conference, and in June 2010 will run a workshop for postgraduate students on speech perception in monolingual and bilingual infants at the ARC Human Communication Science Network meeting in Australia. Mattock was recently interviewed about childhood bilingualism for Parents magazine (USA, published in July 2010 issue).

Who should attend?

Speech language therapists in clinics with large bilingual populations, educational psychologists, nursery and primary teachers who work with the bilingual population, schools and literacy advisors who support bilingual learners, independent chartered psychologists, parents of bilingual children.

Further event information


Lancaster House Hotel

Green Lane



Wed, 25/05/2011 (All day)
BPS Learning Centre Approved