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A bilingual baby's language skills are tested.
(Photo by Tamara Casso)

UTSA Mexico Center presents bilingual baby research

By Alison Beshur
Public Affairs Specialist

(May 2, 2006)--UTSA Mexico Center Director Harriett Romo will present findings of a bilingual baby research project from noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 3 in the Buena Vista Street Building Assembly Room (1.338) at the UTSA Downtown Campus. The event is free and open to all.

Romo, an associate professor of sociology at UTSA, said the research will help answer important questions about child development in transnational families.

"Infants are beginning to form the basic understandings of language at very early ages, and this study explores how infants in bilingual homes become bilingual," Romo said.

Electro-caps were placed on babies' heads, while the infants received sensory, cognitive or motor stimuli. The caps facilitate the use of event-related brain potentials (ERPs) or multidimensional recordings of electrical brain activity.

"We have focused on the babies' reactions to Spanish and English and on the various strategies parents use to help their children maintain English and Spanish," Romo said. "Our research team also is documenting the different types of bilingual homes and the parents' varying levels of language capacities and language used in their communities, childcare and extended family relationships."

The parent sample includes first-, second-, third- and fourth-generation mothers and one father who were either from Mexico or of Mexican descent. Infants in the study ranged in age from six to 12 months.

The main objectives of the research have been to analyze language development and acquisition changes over time, collect information about cultural, familial and social factors in different bilingual environments, and determine improved methods of teaching literacy and language skills to bilingual children.

The ongoing research is a collaborative project with the University of Washington in Seattle.

Other UTSA researchers who have assisted Romo with the project include sociologists Sophia Ortiz, Tamara Casso, Maria Quesada, Maria Rodriguez and Monique Diaz.

For more information about this presentation or other brown bag lunchtime lectures by the UTSA Mexico Center, contact Laura Perez at (210) 458-2849.

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