The MAIN of narrative performance: Russian-Greek bilingual children in Cyprus.

Karpava, Sviatlana orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8416-1431, Kambanaros, Maria and Grohmann, Kleanthes (2015) The MAIN of narrative performance: Russian-Greek bilingual children in Cyprus. In: International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, 7th - 10th September 2015, Chania, Crete, Greece.

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Narratives can help identify linguistic, cognitive, semantic, and social abilities as well as communicative competence and cultural awareness of a child (e.g., Paradis, Genesee & Crago, 2010). In fact it has been argued that narrative skills are important for children’s success at school, as evidenced by a close relationship between oral language skills and literacy (Snow, 2002). As research shows, cultural communities, language environment, home language use, parental attitudes towards bilingual and bi-cultural learning, and the level of language proficiency are some of the factors that can affect the development of narrative abilities (e.g., Jia, Yiu, Duncan & Paradis, 2011). The present study investigates the narrative production of bilingual children with typical development in both their languages: Russian and Cypriot Greek. A total of 23 simultaneous bilingual children across different age groups (from 3 to 11 years) have so far been tested with MAIN, the Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (Gagarina, Klop, Kunnari, Tantele, Välimaa, Balčiūnienė, Bohnacker & Walters, 2012), a tool developed in COST Action IS0804 ‘Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment’. All participants were also tested on a large battery of tests: the Developmental Verbal IQ Test, adapted to Cypriot Greek from Stavrakaki & Tsimpli’s (2000) Standard Modern Greek original (Theodorou, 2013), the Russian Proficiency Test for Multilingual Children (Gagarina, Klassert, & Topaj, 2010), and several tasks assessing executive functions (digit span test, word span test, fluency test, Raven’s matrices). With regard to narrative abilities, the bilingual children performed similarly across their two languages. Their performance was higher on the retelling condition in comparison to the telling condition. This is not a surprising finding, since retelling is considered to be easier than telling, though it is not just a repetition of a story but its reconstruction in detail and grammatical, lexical and content accuracy (Schneider, Hayward & Dubé, 2006). As expected, the bilingual children’s narrative abilities also improve with age, although the number of participants in each age group is too low to allow a concrete generalization. However, a comparison of the participants’ (telling and retelling) narrative performance with that of monolingual Cypriot Greek-and monolingual Russian-speaking children (Gagarina et al., 2012) shows that these outperform their bilingual peers mainly in story structure and internal state terms. Bilingual children have been shown to lag behind their monolingual peers in terms of structural complexity as they are not able to produce complete and well-formed episodes and lack the understanding of narrative schemata, causality, perspective-taking, ability to plan, and meta-awareness (Westby, 2005). The bilingual children’s narrative performance is linked with other variables such as the Greek DVIQ scores, Russian Proficiency Test scores, and schooling as well as chronological age.

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