A study by academics of the two countries appeared in International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.
The team comprised Elena Gorobets (Kazan Federal University), Martina Ozbič (University of Trieste), Nadja Ruhl (University of Udine), Darya Polkina (New Russian School Znanie in Rome), and Andrea Marini (University of Udine).
For the research, 63 children were selected – 21 monolingual Russian speakers, 21 monolingual Italian speakers, and 21 bilingual Russian-Italian speakers. They were tested for non-verbal IQ and then offered a battery of neurolinguistic tests ‘Batteria per la Valutazione del Linguaggio in bambini dai 4 ai 12 anni’ and its Russian analog BVL_RU.
Overall, the bilinguals showed enhanced verbal working memory with respect to Italian monolinguals but not Russian ones. The lexical skills of the participants in the bilingual group, as measured via semantic fluency, naming and lexical comprehension, appeared to be rather limited in Russian when compared to those of the monolingual group. Their vocabulary was mainly made of words with medium-to-high frequency. Passive, reversible and negative sentences appeared to be the most difficult for the participants who inherited Russian from their parents.
The authors emphasize the need for precise evaluations of language skills with equivalent batteries of tests in languages used by monolingual and bilingual speakers. One of such examples is BVL_RU, jointly developed by Kazan Federal University and the University of Udine.
A characterization of language development in heritage speakers
Source text: Galina Khasanova
Translation: Yury Nurmeev