How does multilingual interaction help people with dementia maintain a sense of self?

11 May 2017

Last month we published Multilingual Interaction and Dementia edited by Charlotta Plejert, Camilla Lindholm and Robert W. Schrauf. In this post the editors reveal what inspired them to put the book together and discuss the under-researched subject of multilingualism and dementia. 

In the year 2011, we started a research programme at Linköping University in Sweden, called Dementia: Agency, Personhood and Everyday Life, the aim of which was to highlight, from interdisciplinary perspectives, a range of aspects of what it is like to receive a dementia diagnosis, and to live with the disease on a day-to-day basis. Within the programme, we ran a sub-project with linguists and anthropologists working on ethnocultural and linguistic diversity in relation to dementia; a project that rapidly grew from having played a rather minor role in the original planning, to becoming one of the more significant projects overall, during the six years that the programme lasted. In some respects, the project was a sign of its time, with massive migration to Europe and the North due to instabilities in the Middle East, but also due to earlier streams of migration, and multilingual populations growing old, requiring the provision of health care services within societies that had previously been rather ethnoculturally and linguistically homogeneous (like the Nordic countries).

Surveying the field, we discovered that a fair amount of work on ethnicity, language and ageing had been conducted, but that work within linguistics on multilingualism and dementia, and particularly that which took an interest in social interaction in mundane settings, was very limited. This took us somewhat by surprise, considering the fact that multilingual and multicultural encounters in care and health care services in countries worldwide is a rule rather than an exception. Getting our acts together, Camilla, Bob (Robert), and I (Charlotta) therefore decided to collect contributions from the few scholars who already focused on this topic, eventually resulting in the volume Multilingual Interaction and Dementia.

In contrast to what few studies there are on multilingualism and dementia, which primarily have contributed with important insights into neurocognitive aspects of the disease, the contributions to the volume all share a focus on the role of social interaction, and discourse processes involving multilingual people with dementia and significant others, for leading everyday life with as high a quality as possible, despite their condition. Many of the chapters depict life in residential care settings, in which not only residents may be of linguistically and ethnoculturally diverse backgrounds, but also staff, who may, or may not match in language and culture with residents. What is experienced is thus a highly dynamic setting, in which spoken language use, but even more significantly, bodily resources, play an important role for the ways in which residents and care providing staff manage to build rapport, and succeed in carrying out various tasks (like showering, feeding, but also amusements such as playing bingo, and the like). It is also demonstrated that the choice and use of different languages matter – and contribute to the achievement and maintenance of people’s identities and sense of self. Insights into multilingual and multicultural interaction in residential care, serve to inform care practices and can hopefully develop them further in terms of making them more linguistically and culturally sensitive. As is already known, culturally derived conceptualizations of a disease, such as dementia, affect help-seeking behaviours, and they also affect dementia evaluations and diagnostic processes. All of this, and more, is addressed in the book Multilingual Interaction and Dementia.

Charlotta, Camilla and Bob

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like the other books in our Communication Disorders Across Languages series.


Communication Disorders Across Languages

22 May 2013

As we’re just about to publish the 10th book in the Communication Disorders Across Languages series, Deirdre Martin’s Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual Settings, we asked the series editors Martin Ball and Nicole Müller to tell us a bit about how the series started and how it’s developed.

Our series was founded due to a coincidence. The coincidence was that we were at the same conference as Mike and Marjukka Grover ten years ago: the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism, at Arizona State University, Tempe, in 2003. We had both been involved with work in multilingualism but were earning our livings as clinical linguists and, in discussions with Mike and Marjukka, we came to realize that the intersection between these two fields really needed more attention; indeed, it needed a book series! As it’s now ten years since those initial discussions, and we are about to publish the tenth book in the series, now would seem to be a good time for a retrospective.

Communication Disorders in Spanish SpeakersFrom the outset we envisioned two main themes for the series that would result in books with two different approaches. One theme would involve studies of particular geographical areas and/or languages and explore what speech and language pathology resources and research were available for the multilingual population of that area or speakers of that language. As an example, our very first volume was devoted to Spanish speakers (both in Europe and the New World): Communication Disorders in Spanish Speakers: Theoretical, Research and Clinical Aspects edited by José G. Centeno, Raquel T. Anderson and Loraine K. Obler in 2007. This book was timely, as the increasing number of Spanish speakers, or bilingual Spanish-English speakers in the US has highlighted the paucity of speech language therapy services through the medium of Spanish. The book aims to contribute to evidence-based clinical procedures for monolingual Spanish and bilingual Spanish-English children and adults with communication disorders, and was one of the first to appear in this area.

Multilingual Aspects of Fluency DisordersOther books in the series that followed this path are Research in Logopedics: Speech and Language Therapy in Finland, edited by Anu Klippi and Kaisa Launonen in 2008; Language Disorders in Speakers of Chinese, edited by Sam-Po Law, Brendan Weekes and Anita M.-Y. Wong also in 2008; and Communication Disorders in Turkish, edited by Seyhun Topbaş and Mehmet Yavaş, published in 2010. There are still potentially fascinating areas to explore in this part of the series, and we hope one day to commission volumes dealing with, for example, South Africa, India, and Russia.

Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in ChildrenThe second theme takes a specific area within the field of communication disorders and examines multilingual and crosslinguistic aspects of that area. In the beginning we envisioned a dozen or so such areas from developmental speech and language disorders through to acquired neurogenic impairments. So far, six books have appeared following this theme. The first was Multilingual Aspects of Fluency Disorders, edited by Peter Howell & John Van Borsel, 2011: the first volume to examine stuttering and related fluency impairments from a multilingual viewpoint. This collection has been followed by books on children’s speech disorders, aphasia, voice disorders, and – most recently – literacy. Sharynne McLeod and Brian Goldstein edited Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children which appeared in 2012; later in 2012 was published Aspects of Multilingual Aphasia, edited by Martin Gitterman, Mira Goral and Loraine Obler. This was followed in early 2013 by International Perspectives on Voice Disorders, with Edwin Yiu as editor. Our most recent volume is Researching Dyslexia in Multilingual Settings, edited by Deirdre Martin. Volumes on Sign Language, child language disorders, and motor speech disorders are also in preparation, with still other areas at the planning stage (e.g. traumatic brain injury, and specific language impairment).

Interestingly, as the series has developed, a third theme has emerged: assessment and multilingualism. This theme covers both the provision of assessment materials in a range of languages (many of which have had little in the way of communicative disorders assessment provision in the past), and the assessment of multilingual clients. The first book in this theme was Assessing Grammar: The Languages of LARSP, edited by Martin Ball, David Crystal and Paul Fletcher, which extended the LARSP grammatical analysis profile to 12 languages other than English. Future volumes are planned that will cover up to another 40 languages. Another collection within this theme is in an advanced state of preparation; its working title is Methods for Assessing Multilingual Children: Disentangling Bilingualism from Language Impairment, and is being edited by Sharon Armon-Lotem, Jan de Jong and Natalia Meir. We hope to encourage further submissions within this theme.

What of the future? As noted, we have already commissioned further books for the series, and several of these are near completion so we hope that the series will continue to grow and provide essential resources for researchers and practitioners.

Martin J. Ball and Nicole Müller
Series editors, Communication Disorders Across Languages


Communication Disorders Across Languages

17 January 2013

International Perspectives on Voice DisordersOur Communication Disorders Across Languages series covers all aspects of speech and communication disorders focusing both on specific languages (such as Finnish, Spanish, Turkish, Chinese) and also on the multilingual aspects of voice disorders, aphasia and other speech sound disorders.

The latest book in this series, International Perspectives on Voice Disorders edited by Edwin M-L. Yiu, comes out this week and provides a state-of-the-art account of voice research and issues in clinical voice practice. This book is the first of its kind bringing together cutting-edge research and clinic-based practice.

Robert T. Sataloff, M.D., of Drexel University College of Medicine, USA, calls the book “an exceptional compendium of insights and opinions provided by voice experts from around the world.” He claims that it “provides a unique vision of current concepts in voice care and research, as well as guidance on questions that require future study.”

The series is edited by Nicole Müller and Martin Ball who are based at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and are both experts in communication disorders and multilingualism and who assess each book as it comes in.

This latest book is the 9th volume in the series and you can see the list of all books in the series below:

Books on general aspects of language disorders:
Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children edited by Sharynne McLeod and Brian Goldstein
Multilingual Aspects of Fluency Disorders edited by Peter Howell and John Van Borsel
Assessing Grammar edited by Martin Ball, David Crystal and Paul Fletcher
Aspects of Multilingual Aphasia edited by Martin R. Gitterman, Mira Goral and Loraine K. Obler

Books on language disorders in specific languages:
Communication Disorders in Turkish edited by Seyhun Topbaş and Mehmet Yavaş
Language Disorders in Speakers of Chinese edited by Sam-Po Law, Brendan Weekes and Anita M-Y Wong
Research in Logopedics edited by Anu Klippi and Kaisa Launonen
Communication Disorders in Spanish Speakers edited by José G. Centeno, Raquel T. Anderson and Loraine K. Obler

CDAL covers


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