Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


50th Annual Convention; Philadelphia, PA; 2024

Event Details

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Symposium #95
CE Offered: BACB
Optimal Procedures to Learn a Foreign Language
Saturday, May 25, 2024
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Convention Center, 100 Level, 111 AB
Area: VRB/EDC; Domain: Translational
Chair: Mirela Cengher (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
CE Instructor: Mirela Cengher, Ph.D.

Forty-three percent of the world’s population is bilingual, and yet research focused on the identification of optimal procedures to teach one or more foreign languages is limited. Such research can benefit children with developmental disabilities, who generally have language deficits that require effective and efficient teaching procedures. This symposium describes research aimed to determine (a) whether learning tacts in one language is better than learning tacts in two languages, (b) whether learning tacts and listener responses in two languages simultaneously is better than sequentially, and (c) what role preference plays in the acquisition of tacts in a foreign language. Across studies, we examined and compared multiple learning outcomes (e.g., effectiveness, efficiency, and the emergence of other verbal operants). Child participants learned tacts in one language more efficiently than in two languages. Child participants learned tacts simultaneously more efficiently than sequentially; the sequential condition was more efficient for adults learning listener responses. The simultaneous procedures produced higher levels of emergent bidirectional intraverbal compared to sequential procedures. Finally, child participants learned tacts of preferred items more efficiently than tacts of nonpreferred items. The preferred condition also produced higher levels of emergent bidirectional intraverbals. These findings can inform foreign language instructional design.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): bilingualism, foreign language, preference, verbal behavior
Target Audience:

Basic knowledge of verbal behavior and stimulus control.

Learning Objectives: 1. Describe optimal procedures to teach a foreign language. 2. Determine the optimal order of teaching languages. 3. Determine how to use child preferences when designing interventions to teach a foreign language.
The Use of the Go/No-Go Successive Matching-to-Sample Procedure to Compare Sequential and Simultaneous Bilingualism
(Basic Research)
ARMANDO ANGULO (California State University, Sacramento), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento), ROBBIE HANSON (Lindenwood University)
Abstract: Despite the growing literature on second language acquisition, there has not been a focus on the difference between simultaneous and the sequential acquisition of a second language. In typically developing children, bilingualism can emerge concurrently when they are exposed to multiple languages within a verbal community (i.e., simultaneous bilingualism). Or they can learn one language first, then learn a second language later in life, typically when entering school (i.e., sequential bilingualism; Lund et al., 2017). To compare simultaneous and sequential bilingualism, researchers taught words from two languages (Korean and Mandarin Chinese) to college students from a large public university using the Go/No-Go Successive Matching-to-Sample Procedures developed by Zhelezoglo et al. (2021). To simulate simultaneous bilingualism, AC and BC relations were taught simultaneously through AC/BC mixed training to simulate the bilingual who learns both languages at the same time. For sequential bilingualism AC and BC relations were taught separately to simulate the bilingual who learns one language to mastery first and then learns a second language. The results may provide more information on which order is more efficient and produces the most emergent behavior.

Identifying the Optimal Procedures to Teach Two Languages to Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder

(Applied Research)
XUEHUA ZHAO (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Mirela Cengher (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Tianjiao Li (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

The population of the United States is becoming more diversified culturally and linguistically. Bilingualism has been shown to have positive effects in neurotypical children’s development (e.g., Bialystok, 2010). However, there are little known on how to best teach and support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to learn a second language and if teaching a second language might hinder and confuse their language acquisition. Previous studies examined the effect of tact and listener responses on the emergence of bidirectional intraverbal relations with six neurotypical Brazilian children and found that tact training was more effective in producing bidirectional intraverbal responding. The present study examined the optimal procedures for teaching two languages using tact training to children with ASD. We compare the effectiveness of acquiring a small set of tacts when (a) teaching two languages simultaneously, (b) teaching two languages sequentially, and (c) teaching one language only (i.e., control). Results showed that simultaneous procedures were more efficient in teaching two languages and effective in promoting conditional discrimination. All participants acquired one language much more efficiently than two languages. However, all participants acquired a small tact vocabulary in two languages. Overall, simultaneous procedures produced higher levels of emergent intraverbal compared to sequential procedures.

Effects of the Order of Exposure to High and Low Preferred Stimulus Sets on Learning a Small Vocabulary in a Second Language
(Applied Research)
MARIELE CORTEZ (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos), Paola Martins Pedroso de Lima (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos), Caio F. Miguel (California State University, Sacramento)
Abstract: This study evaluated whether the order of exposure to high and low preferred stimulus sets during tact instruction in a foreign language would affect the acceleration of the tact learning curve and the emergence and of native-to-foreign and foreign-to-native intraverbals. We used a nonconcurrent multiple baseline across participants design with intermittent probes. Six Brazilian children aged seven to eight years old were taught to tact in a foreign language using a progressive prompt delay with differential reinforcement. Before tact instruction, a preference assessment was conducted to select the stimuli assigned to the high and low preferred sets. Three children were first taught to tact in a foreign language the high preferred stimulus set and then the low preferred stimulus set. The remaining children were exposed to the opposite order. Results showed that four out of six participants met the mastery and emergence criteria for the high-preferred stimulus set in fewer trial blocks than for the low-preferred stimulus set regardless the order of exposure. For both stimulus sets, tact instruction consistently produced high levels of emergent intraverbal responding, replicating previous studies. Our data suggest that stimulus preference as an important variable to ensure optimal foreign language learning.



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