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Prof. Dr. Pascale Engel de Abreu

Pascale Engel de Abreu

Associate professor

Academic Area(s) Theoretical & cognitive psychology / Treatment & clinical psychology / Neurosciences & behavior / Education & instruction
Research Topics Cognitive Development, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Executive Functions, Working Memory, Phonological Awareness, Language Development, Multilingualism
Faculty or Centre Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Department Department of Humanities
Postal Address Université du Luxembourg
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette
Campus Office MSH, E03 15-020
Social Media & Blogs
Video Meet the scientists: Psychologist - Pascale Engel de Abreu
Meet the scientists: Psychologist - Pascale Engel de Abreu
Speaks English, French, German, Luxembourgish, Portuguese, Spanish
More information on www.science.lu – Check eccs.uni.lu to know more about the research conducted at the Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) Research Unit.

Head of the Language and Cognitive Development Group

About me

I am Associate Professor in multilingual cognitive development at the ECCS Research Unit. 

I specialised in cognitive development in my PhD from the University of York (UK) and hold master's degrees in developmental psychology from the University of Durham (UK) and the Université Louis Pasteur (France). I have postdoctoral research experience from the University of Oxford (UK), the University of Princeton (US), and York University (Canada). I am also a registered child psychologist in Luxembourg and have worked with disadvantaged children in Africa, Bolivia, and Brazil.

My research

I am interested in understanding how children learn, why some children can have “specific learning disorders” (such as dyslexia) and how we can help children achieve their full potential at school. I study important cognitive processes that children need to learn to speak, read and write such as working memory, executive functions and phonological awareness. I am particularly interested in exploring these processes in multilingual speakers. 

Most of my research is conducted in schools using diverse methodologies, including longitudinal, cross-sectional and intervention research. I often work with kids individually and use simple (and fun) games to find out more about how they think and learn. 

My research has important theoretical but also practical implications. One of the major aims is to develop theoretically-driven assessment instruments and intervention programs that will help to alleviate children's learning difficulties and might prevent a downward spiral towards poor educational progress and its associated social problems.

Further information

Last updated on: Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Download Pascale Engel de Abreu's complete CV

Last updated on: 04 Dec 2018

I study questions such as:

  • How does a child’s environment influence his language and cognitive development?
  • How can a “specific learning disorder” be detected in a multilingual child?
  • What are the optimal conditions for becoming perfectly multilingual?
  • How do children learn to read in a second language and how can this be made easier?
  • Why do language-minority children struggle in the Luxembourgish educational system and what can we do to best support their learning?
  • What are the effects of multilingualism on brain development?


Below is a short description of some of my recent projects: 

  • Preschool Oral Language Intervention for Language-Minority Children: The aim is to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of a mother-tongue based preschool language intervention program on the language and literacy outcomes for language-minority children growing up in Luxembourg using a randomised controlled study design. The program will run for 30 weeks in preschool across Year 1 (C1.1) and Year 2 (C1.2) and will mainly focus on developing children’s vocabulary knowledge as well as their narrative, listening and phonological skills.
  • The Effects of Multilingualism and Socioeconomic Status on Children’s Cognitive Development: Executive functions - the set of cognitive processes that underpin our ability to control our thoughts, actions and emotions - are crucial for educational progress and success in later life. The major aim of this project is to advance the understanding of the extrinsic factors that can have an impact on children’s executive function development. The study is multinational involving Universities from Brazil (USP, UNIFESP), Germany (Universität des Saarlandes) and Portugal (University of Minho).  
  • Early Literacy Instruction in a Multilingual Setting: This project plans to foster the development of pre-literacy skills in young children in order to build a strong foundation for their subsequent reading development. We are developing a theoretically motivated language and pre-literacy program for children in Luxembourg. The program will systematically build up children’s phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge and broader oral language skills. It will be in Luxembourgish and will be multisensory. 
  • Language Development in Exceptional Circumstances: A Longitudinal Study of Children with Specific Language Impairment: Specific language impairment (SLI) is a clinical condition that is diagnosed when a child fails to acquire language normally, despite apparently typical development in other areas. The diagnosis of SLI in multilingual speakers is difficult because there is often a confusion between language “disorders” and “disadvantages”. The aim of this research is to identify markers for the early identification of SLI in multilingual children. We are exploring the hypothesis that tests of executive functions might distinguish typical from impaired language development in the context of multilingualism. 
  • The Development of Culture-Fair Assessment Tools for Testing Language and Cognition in Children: There is a need for unbiased tools for assessing language and cognition in multilingual children. The aim of this project is to develop phonological processing, lexical processing, working memory and general cognitive ability tasks that are not influenced by the cultural and linguistic elements that come with diverse populations.


Last updated on: 04 Sep 2014