UCL Psychology and Language Sciences



Taking language and cultural diversity into account

Dr Merle Mahon, Senior Lecturer, PaLS, UCL

A considerable number of deaf children eligible for cochlear implantation come from homes where English is not the family’s main language. Many of these families also come from diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, a recent audit of one UK CI centre showed 28% of implanted children came from such families (Mahon et al 2011). 50% of these families were of South Asian origin, and their home languages included Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi and Gujarati. Research into these children’s development of language is sparse; indeed, they are frequently excluded from research studies in order to reduce the number of variables being considered. This talk will summarise currently available findings about these children’s development of spoken language, including the role of language input from family members and professionals (Mahon 2009; Szagun & Rüter 2009; Thomas et al 2008). Challenges facing researchers will be outlined and future research needs discussed.

Link to slides


Mahon, M., Vickers, D., McCarthy, K., Barker, R., Merritt, R., Szagun, G., Mann, W. and Rajput, K. (2011) Cochlear-implanted children from homes where English is an additional language: findings from a recent audit in one London centre. Cochlear Implants International 12, 2 105-113

Mahon, M. (2009) Interactions between a deaf child for whom English is an additional language and his specialist teacher in the first year at school: combining words and gestures. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics 23, 8, 611 – 629

Szagun, G. and Rüter, M. (2009). The influence of parents’ speech on the development of spoken language in German-speaking children with cochlear implants. Revista de Logopedia, Foniatria y Audiologia, 29, 165-173

Thomas, E., El-Kashlan, H. and Zwolan. T.A. (2008). Children with cochlear implants who live in monolingual and bilingual homes. Otology and Neurotology 29, 230-234

Link to further references