top of page


ESR10 Project

Bilingualism, biliteracy and dyslexia: advantages or disadvantages

Lead beneficiary: University Milano Bicocca

Main supervisor: M. T. Guasti; ESR10 Committee: M. L. Lorusso, T. Rinker, F. Arosio


L2 children obtain lower reading scores at 8 years if they have been exposed to their L2 after age 3 and perform similarly to monolingual children with DD. Since early intervention is important, it is necessary to find markers that distinguish delay due to late exposure from delay due to dyslexia. Children with DD are often advised not to use their L1 or to become literate only in their L2. However, no scientific evidence supports this advice.


  • Find out markers for dyslexia in L2 children of Italian and English by examining their language and reading achievements.

  • Establish whether there are markers of dyslexia that are language specific and markers that may be valid for different languages.

  • Investigate how L2 children of Italian perform on the prerequisite for readings in preschool.

  • Determine whether bilingualism and/or biliteracy has negative, positive or no impact on children with dyslexia.

Planned secondments:

During the 1st year 4 months at FINCB to test L2 learners of Italian referred to clinical service for dyslexia; during the 2nd year 6 months at UREAD to collect data from L2 learners of English. The ESR will gain hands-on experience in public engagement at BC and BMR.


ESR11 Project

Phonological and morpho-syntactic processing in bilingual children and in children with SLI

Lead beneficiary: University of Tübingen

Main supervisor: T. Rinker; ESR11 Committee: M. T. Guasti, V. Shafer


One diagnostic challenge in differentiating bilingual children with SLI from bilingual children without SLI is that they often present with similar linguistic profiles in the weaker language. For a robust diagnosis of SLI in bilingual children a language deficit needs to be determined in both languages. This may be easy if diagnostic measures are available for both languages and the language input for both languages is clear.


  • Investigate phonological and morphological processing in bilingual Italian-German children and in monolingual children with and without SLI through the use of auditory ERP-measures as well as comparable behavioural measures in German and in Italian.

  • Thorough assessment of the input (quantitative and qualitative) of the bilingual children in both languages.

  • Use of a test battery in Italian and German to assess phonological, grammatical and lexical skills in the L1 and L2 and to relate them to the findings at the neurophysiological level.

  • Explore the extent to which bilingualism has a protective role in children with SLI.

Planned secondments:

During the 1st year 3 months at CUNY (Dr. Valerie Shafer) to gain experience on bilingual SLI in Spanish-English bilinguals. During the 2nd year 3 months in Milan to collect data on bilingual German-Italian children living in the Trentino region. During the 3rd year, 3 months in the Institute FON that has a large multilingual patient population to gain practical experience in observation and practice of speech & language therapy with bilingual clients. The ESR will gain experience in public engagement at the CfM in Konstanz.


ESR12 Project

Computerized system for the screening of Specific learning and language disorders within bilingual children

Lead beneficiary: IRCCS - Associazione La Nostra Famiglia 'Istituto scientifico Eugenio Medea'

Main supervisor: M. L. Lorusso; ESR12 Committee: M. T. Guasti, T. Marinis


The number of bilingual children requiring attention for their poor educational achievements is increasing; without a clear understanding of their needs it is difficult to provide adequate services. Since clinicians may not be able to examine children’s L1, a flexible response can be offered through the use of computerized language and reading tests tailored on the specific language. These can be carried out in the children’s L2, L1 or both.


  • Based on the literature, define a set of language specific markers of SLI and dyslexia in monolingual children speaking Italian, English, Polish, Mandarin, Whenzhonese, German

  • Prepare 6 sets of computerized tests for the selected languages using the specific markers for each language

  • Administer computerized tests to bilingual children with typical development; children will be tested on their L1 (English, Polish, Mandarin, Whenzhonese, German) and L2 (Italian)

  • Analyse data; define cut off values; evaluate the tests and computerized system; revise if necessary

  • Administer the tests to bilingual children referred for clinical services and speaking L2 Italian and one of the L1 indicated

  • Design a subset of the tests for an open source platform.

Planned secondments:

In 2nd year 4 months at UKON to work on the German markers and collect data on Italian-German bilinguals. In the 3rd year 4 months at Kentalis to gain work experience in a professional organisation that specialises on diagnostic, care, and educational services for individuals with language impairment. This will give the ESR hands-on experience in a professional setting that is very valuable in terms of future employability. Kentalis is also involved in computerized assessments for multilingual children. This secondment will enable knowledge exchange between Kentalis, the ESR, and the MultiMind team. During the time at MEDEA, hands-on experience in public engagement and research dissemination at BC.

Photo: Luca Prestia

bottom of page