Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol 2, No 1 (2012), 31-42, Jan 2012

Measuring Balanced Bilingual Children with Sentence-embedded Word Translation

Shin-Mei Kao, Ferenc J. Pintér


This paper reports two studies. The first one investigates how two 10-year-old Taiwanese-Hungarian balanced bilingual twin boys translated sentence-embedded words between their native languages over a six-month period as the physical context around them changed. The second one compares how these two bilinguals and four monolingual children defined words in their native languages. The purpose is twofold: to explore the role of an active language in translation, and to propose a new measurement for bilinguals. The reaction time (RT) and accuracy of their verbal protocols were measured and analyzed. The bilingual children’s word translation reveals an active use of metalinguistic skills. The physical context did affect their RT and accuracy in general and in translating concrete/abstract concepts. The two bilinguals defined words as fast and accurate as their monolingual peers in both languages, but different definition aspects were identified from the answers of the two groups. The translation/definition task appears a comprehensive measurement for bilingual and monolingual children with any combination of languages.


balanced bilingual; lexical access; active language; word translation; word definition; metalinguistic competence


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