20. Creating language-assessment tools for North, South and in between

language assessment, language impairment, cross-cultural, language acquisition, aphasia

Pernille Hansen, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Monica Norvik, MultiLing, UiO/Statped/NTNU

Multilingualism is dynamic and multifaceted: Multilingual individuals will use each of their languages for different purposes, with different people and within different domains, and throughout life, we may become or cease to be multilingual (Grosjean 2008). To capture a multilingual individual’s full language knowledge, one must assess all their languages (Armon-Lotem, de Jong, & Meir, 2015; De Houwer, 2009). This point is crucial within clinical linguistics: By assessing only one language, we cannot separate multilingual children with a language disorder, who will show atypical patterns in all their languages, from unbalanced multilinguals assessed in their weaker language. For multilingual adults with aphasia, assessment in all languages is necessary for a precise diagnosis, for offering appropriate treatment, and for evaluating the treatment, specifically concerning generalisation effects across languages.
Nevertheless, multilinguals are often assessed in the majority language only. Two reasons for this monolingual practice is the lack of tools appropriate for cross-linguistic assessment and the lack of norms valid for multilingual populations. Some tools currently available across many languages are direct translations, which may not be directly comparable across languages: To ensure cross-linguistic equivalence, one must account for item difficulty within each language version of the tool (Peña 2007).
In this section, we will discuss how we can develop valid tools and norms for multilingual populations across latitudes and lifespan, exemplified by the development of different assessment tools and efforts emerging from two international networks. We will address the following questions, and end the section with a discussion:
  • How can we build tools valid for cross-linguistic assessment?
  • How do we account for item difficulty in the absence of large corpora and psycholinguistic databases?
  • How do we create picture stimuli suitable across cultural and geographical distances?
  • How can we create valid multilingual norms?
  • What does norming entail across a multitude of multilingual populations?
  1. Meeting a need for tools: Experiences from two international networks, Valantis Fyndanis, Ewa Haman, Magdalena Łuniewska, Hanne Gram Simonsen
  2. Multilingual assessment through pictures: Guidelines for material selection, Pernille Hansen, Monica Norvik, Eva Soroli, Ewa Haman, Hanne Gram Simonsen, Frenette Southwood
  3. Equivalent child language assessment instruments across languages: Southern Africa CDIs, Frenette Southwood, Helena Oosthuizen, Michelle White, Heather Brookes, Tessa Dowling, Michelle Pascoe, Mikateko Ndhambi, Katie Alcock, 
  4. Using children’s response speed as a tool to identify at-risk bilingual preschool children, Pui Fong Kan, Anna Miller and Sierra Still