NIH – Typical and Atypical Patterns of Language & Literacy in Dual Language Learners (R01, R21)

August 7, 2017 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The following description was taken from the R01 version of this FOA:

About one of every five people ages 5 years and older in the United States speaks a language other than English in the home. Children and adolescents who are learning English in addition to a language spoken or signed at home are known as dual language learners (DLLs), and account for greater than 9 percent of enrollment in grades K-12 in schools throughout the U.S. Increasing understanding of typical and atypical language and literacy development in DLLs is critical for improving reading skills and ultimate educational achievement and attainment in this population. It is also vital for improving differentiation of normal language variation in DLLs from language impairment; DLLs are at high risk of misdiagnosis and not being identified with special needs. However, little is known about how best to promote literacy and learning in one or both of the languages of DLLs.

To address these issues, a workshop, “Language and Literacy Development in Early Dual Language Learners” was held in August, 2016, sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders with co-funding provided by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. The purpose of the meeting was to gather clinical and research experts involved with dual language learners to obtain information from individual attendees relevant to developing a research agenda on DLLs that would provide empirical guidance on best practices for this population. Focused formal presentations dealt with Variability in Bilingual Development, Assessment and Intervention, and Neurocognitive Development followed by in depth discussion and identification of research gaps and opportunities. A number of research gaps and opportunities were developed at the workshop.  For more information about the workshop, see


The purpose of this FOA is to support investigator-initiated applications that will inform our understanding of the typical and atypical patterns of language and literacy development of dual language learners (DLLs) in the United States. Applicants are encouraged to take advantage of advances in the language sciences and related fields to identify and clarify specific cognitive, linguistic, neurobiological, and sociocultural factors associated with normal and impaired language and literacy acquisition in young DLL populations.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has recently published a report entitled “Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures”. This report ( consolidates many issues related to DLLs and identifies needed research.

As a result of these activities, a number of research needs and opportunities have been identified.  NIDCD and NICHD have a strong interest in supporting research addressing patterns of typical and atypical language and literacy in DLLs. The proposed studies should develop, adapt, and use rigorous approaches to identify determinants that contribute to specific patterns of language and literacy acquisition. The approaches and findings from these studies should be used to define, differentiate, and classify typical and/or atypical patterns of language and literacy development in DLLs. The long-term goals are to identify specific causes of typical and atypical variation in language and literacy acquisition in DLLs, and ultimately to use the information to develop effective assessment, instruction, and intervention strategies to promote robust language and literacy skills and academic success, as well as to prevent or remediate reading and writing difficulties and disabilities among DLLs. Examples of potential applications submitted to this FOA include but are not limited to the following research areas:

  • Identification of appropriate comparison groups for dual language learners
  • Markers of language disorders that apply across diverse language learning contexts
  • Patterns of language development affected by modality (e.g., sign, print)
  • Methods of differentiating typical and atypical (impaired) language and literacy in DLLs
  • Relationship of divergent patterns of dual language acquisition (e.g., language loss, language attrition and incomplete acquisition) to language and literacy outcomes
  • Identification of skills during preschool years that predict literacy success in DLLs
  • Extent to which abilities in the home language (L1) influence specific aspects of English language (L2) acquisition, and under what circumstances
  • Role of source, quantity, and quality of L1 and L2 input on subsequent language and literacy outcomes
  • central to academic success
  • Effective forms of literacy and language instruction for L1 and/or L2 and the relationship to achievement of English proficiency
  • Innovative methods of dissemination and implementation of best practices with DLLs, including those used with DLLs with disabilities, to clinical and educational audiences
  • Development of more effective methods of identification for and referral to early intervention for DLLs with special needs
  • Dual language learning and its relation to plasticity (e.g., behavioral, brain) during development
  • Identification of effective practices that enhance language and literacy development in DLL populations with known cognitive and/or language challenges (e.g., autism, Down syndrome)
  • Ascertaining the accuracy and validity of DLL assessment

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities