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Welsh language study reveals Down syndrome is no bar to bilingualism

29 Jun 2021 2 minute read
8-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome. By Vanellus Foto ( GNU)

A Welsh language study has revealed that Down syndrome is not a bar to bilingualism.

In what has been dubbed the first study of its kind in the UK, researchers at Bangor University examined language in Welsh-English bilingual children with the disability and found no evidence of additional difficulties compared to monolinguals.

They compared a group of bilingual children with Down syndrome to a group of English monolinguals, and not only did they find comparable performance in English, they found they had considerable skills in Welsh too.

Medical Express explained that it expels the myth that exposure to two languages can cause problems for children with Down syndrome.

The study, published in the Journal of Communication Disorders, and is part of Dr Rebecca Ward’s work in the Department of Linguistics at Bangor University.

She said: “It is really exciting to be able to share these positive research findings.

“Hopefully this can lead to a move towards a more inclusive approach when it comes to bilingualism and will affirm families’ decisions to pursue bilingualism even if faced with hesitancy from others.”

‘Real impact’ 

Dr Eirini Sanoudaki, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, who led the project, said: “It is a privilege to pioneer this field of research, and to make a real impact in people’s lives.

“Families and health professionals were previously unsure due to absence of evidence about bilingualism.

“I have been receiving messages from Wales and across the world asking for advice; these positive results will provide some of the certainty needed.”

Julian Hallett, services development manager at the Down’s Syndrome Association, which was partner and collaborator in this project said: “Every child or adult should be supported to express themselves in a way that reflects their culture, family life and community.

“We are seeing many more examples of individuals with Down’s syndrome living life bilingually and it is great to have this research to more fully describe peoples’ experiences.


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3 years ago

…….. which proves that kids with Downs have fewer hang ups about Welsh or any 2nd language than brainwashed, preprogrammed so-called “normal” Anglo kids. That’s what too much exposure to Anglo culture does to people, it damages them at an early formative stage.

Anna Bin Iaith
Anna Bin Iaith
3 years ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I agree.

Anglophones brainwash us with an inferior mindset.

Only when we send them back across the Clawdd and reclaim our rights, can the Cymru avoid the genocide of our spirits.

3 years ago

I could have told them this 50 years ago, a downs boy in Cricieth was totally proficient in both Welsh and English, much to the amazement of any English visitors who came across him.

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