Cultural differences in conversational turn-taking


I think we’re all aware that amount and type of talk that young children are exposed to can have a big impact on their language development. But what about the influence of culture on caregiver–child interactions? Understanding this factor as it relates to the language development of each child that we work with is necessary if we’re committed to providing culturally sensitive, appropriate services and recommendations to families.

This study used the Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA) system to analyze conversational turn-taking between parents and two- and three-year-old Canadian and Vietnamese children with and without hearing loss. Main findings:

  • Vietnamese families verbally interacted significantly less than Canadian families, regardless of hearing status

  • Hearing status didn’t impact the amount of talk in the homes of Canadian or Vietnamese children

This study emphasizes the importance of placing culture at the forefront of our focus when it comes to identifying language delays and appropriate recommendations for families of young children with and without hearing loss. Findings from this study suggest that direct observations of parent–child interactions in a natural setting can provide important insight regarding cultural expectations and norms.

Ganek, H., Smyth, R., Nixon, S., & Eriks-Brophy. (2018). Using the Language Environment Analysis (LENA) system to investigate cultural differences in conversational turn count. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 2246–2258.