School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

Somali adults achieveSDSU Helps Somali Adults Achieve Self-Sufficiency

A unique English as a Second Language curriculum has been developed by SDSU faculty and students in the SLHS to improve the communication skills of seniors with limited English proficiency. The curriculum was recently adapted for seniors from Somalia, among the most recent immigrant groups to settle in San Diego.

Professor Henrike Blumenfeld is leading the effort through her Bilingualism and Cognition Lab. The ESL curriculum consists of thematically organized binders with visual cues and an iPad app that has been translated into Somali. The project is a partnership between SDSU and Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS), a community organization that helps Somali and other East African families become self-sufficient, independent and contributing members of the San Diego community.

The first cohort of Somali seniors started the weekly program in September 2016 with assistance from a team of bilingual SFS staff as well as undergraduate and graduate students supported by a mini-grant for undergraduate research from SDSU’s Division of Undergraduate Studies. All the Somali participants have attended the classes, and their English-speaking skills have improved markedly, according to SFS staff. Student researchers from the Bilingualism and Cognition Lab presented a poster on the project at the Student Research Symposium.

“The seniors said they learned a lot more from this ESL curriculum than they ever had in previous adult ESL classes due to the one-to-one assistance and the focus on functional communication skills,” said SFS President and CEO Ahmed Sahid.

School Hosts 3rd Annual Speech-Language Awareness and Information Day

Members of the SDSU and greater San Diego community were invited to the 3rd annual Speech-Language Awareness and Information Day (SAID) hosted by the SLHS on May 1.

Lizbeth H. Finestack, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, delivered the keynote address, Exploring Grammatical Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Language Impairment. She is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. Her long-term research aim is to identify efficient and effective language interventions for children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, including children with primary language impairment, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder.

The event opened with Ph.D. candidate Stephanie DeAnda presenting her research, How Two Languages Interact in Early Bilingual Language Acquisition. Participants then explored resources available for those with speech and language challenges during a Community Resource Fair featuring SDSU and community organizations.

Sign Language Project Wins Award

As many as two million people use American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States and Canada, and sign language researcher hope to learn more about the underpinnings of language in the brain.

Collaboration between researchers at SDSU, Boston University and Tufts University has created ASL-LEX, the first comprehensive lexical database for ASL. The project recently received the People’s Choice award in the Interactive category of the 15th annual National Science Foundation Visualization Challenge.

The ASL-LEX website combines written words and a short video that shows the corresponding ASL sign. A sidebar gives technical information about the sign’s frequency of use by signers; a score for its iconicity, or how much the sign resembles the action or object it represents; and a host of phonological and syntactic details about the signs. The site also offers a visual map of sign clusters organized by signs that share similar phonological properties, such as hand shape and movement. These details are valuable to linguists hoping to learn how signs relate to one another, as well as for neuroscientists hoping to understand how the brain processes visual-manual language differently from auditory-vocal languages, said Karen Emmorey, one of the project’s leaders and a cognitive neuroscientist at SDSU. “Almost everything we know about human language comes from the study of spoken languages,” said Emmorey, director of the SDSU Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience. “However, only by studying sign languages is it possible to discover which linguistic rules and constraints are universal to all human languages and which depend on the modality of a language.”

Audiology Students Help With Young Scholars With Disability Awareness

slhs student with model earIn collaboration with Del Mar Heights Elementary School, the Student Academy of Audiology –

San Diego coordinated the participation of AuD students in an award-winning disability aware- ness program, Understanding Differences. The program was established in 2005 to foster empathy and teach understanding through science lessons, interactive simulations, and guest speakers.

audiology student teachingAlongside Deaf Community Service, the SDSU/UCSD AuD students created and led hearing loss simulator, tuning fork hearing screening, and hearing aid technology stations during the culminating event to conclude the month long exploration of hearing impairment and Deaf culture.