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Expert in the spotlight in April 2012, Tina Hickey

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Dr. Tina Hickey is working at the School of Psychology UCD Dublin, Ireland, where she lectures in bilingualism, language development and the psychology of language. She has continued to publish research in the areas of the acquisition of Irish as first and second language, early immersion education, bilingualism, reading in Irish, family language transmission and minority language maintenance. As recipient of a research fellowship of the Government of Ireland in 2007, she was awarded with Lifetime Membership of the Reading Association of Ireland in 2011, and from 2012 she will be Scientist in Charge of a Marie Curie research grant on Irish orthography held with Prof. Nancy Stenson. More information

Face to face with Tina Hickey

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/ multilingualism? 

My early publications were on my doctoral research which was the first longitudinal and cross-sectional study of a group of children acquiring Irish as their first language. I worked for some time in the Linguistics Institute of Ireland (Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann) where I carried out research on the L2 learning of Irish among primary school children, on teaching reading in Irish and biliteracy, and on early bilingualism and family language transmission. I conducted a national assessment of early immersion preschools (naíonraí), exploring children’s language learning, their Irish-speaking networks, and how their learning influences home language use.  Now I work in a university Psychology department and teach and research on bilingualism and bilingual education, language acquisition and biliteracy. 

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

A longstanding concern of mine has been the need to promote family language transmission of minority languages and ensure that young L1 speakers receive linguistic support and enrichment, in addition to the efforts put into teaching L2 learners in schools. The challenge is to provide the appropriate supports to different types of learners to address their different needs. I see another challenge in promoting literacy in minority languages, as I believe it is often under-valued as a means of supporting minority language learning and use among dispersed groups. Finally, the fostering of interdisciplinary collaboration between those of us approaching the same issues from different perspectives, such as psychology, education, linguistics and sociology is essential to excellence in research in this area.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

There are several! Thanks to a Marie Curie grant I will collaborate with Prof Nancy Stenson (University of Minnesota) on research aiming to help teachers to teach Irish reading to both child and adult learners. Another exciting project is with Lauren Kavanagh (UCD, funded by COGG) on parental involvement in immersion schools. Dr Thea Cameron (University of Manchester) and I are collaborating (with ESRC funding) on a study of L1 acquisition of Irish, paying particular attention to aspects of input to the children. I am also working with Dr Ciara O’Toole (University of Cork) developing norms for the Irish adaptation of the Communicative Development Inventory (CDI, funded by Foras na Gaeilge) which we hope will help SLTs working with speech-delayed Irish speaking children.   

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention? 

These projects are discussed in recent publications:
Hickey, T. M. and Stenson, N. (2011) Irish orthography: what do teachers and learners need to know about it, and why? Language Culture and Curriculum, 24:23-46.

Cameron, T. and Hickey T.M. (2011) Form and function in Irish child directed speech. Cognitive Linguistics, 22 (3): 569-594.

Kavanagh, L. and Hickey, T.M. (in press) An exploration of parents' experiences of involvement in immersion schooling: Identifying barriers to successful involvement. In F. Farr and E. Moriarty (Eds). Language in Society. Oxford: Peter Lang.

My Irish adaptation of LARSP has recently become available on a website linked to a new book:
Hickey, T.M. (2011) ILARSP: A Grammatical Profile of Irish. In Martin Ball and Paul Fletcher (Eds.). The Languages of LARSP. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters. Isbn 

For other publications click here


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Our focus this month lies on Irish