Háblame Bebé: A phone application intervention to support Hispanic children’s early language environments and bilingualism

Melissa Baralt, Ashley Darcy Mahoney, Natalie Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early language environments of low-income Hispanic children can be negatively affected when their Spanish-speaking caregivers face racism, assimilation pressure, and/or misinformed advice based on English-only ideologies. This article reports on the design and efficacy of Háblame Bebé, a language-promoting phone application that encourages low-income Hispanic mothers to talk more to their children in their native Spanish with the goals of (1) improving their children’s early language environment, (2) promoting bilingualism, and (3) monitoring developmental milestones. The app was designed and tested across three phases as mandated by the US HRSA Bridging the Word Gap Challenge. In Phase I, we developed a curriculum that promotes high-quality language interactions in Spanish and designed the app components. In Phase II, we tested the app with 20 Hispanic mothers (half high school-educated, half college-educated) in a pretest–posttest design in which we examined their language interactions before and after two months of using the app. Preliminary results indicated that mother–child verbal interactions increased, but not always in their native Spanish, and the difference was not statistically significant. Focus group data revealed that many of the mothers had experienced linguistic racism and that tropes surrounding Spanish-speaking identity in the USA needed to be explicitly addressed within the intervention. In Phase III, a sociolinguistic pride component was added and the app was again tested with 12 additional Hispanic mothers (all high school-educated only). This time, a statistically significant increase in mother–child verbal interactions was found. Mothers also reported feeling prouder to use Spanish with their children. These results suggest that Háblame Bebé may be a viable means to reach low-income Hispanic caregivers who face obstacles in accessing health information and/or home-visiting programs for their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-57
Number of pages25
JournalChild Language Teaching and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Hispanic
  • bilingual
  • early childhood
  • educational phone app
  • language development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Háblame Bebé: A phone application intervention to support Hispanic children’s early language environments and bilingualism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this