First steps toward developing tools for language assessment in multilingual urban pre-schoolers

  • Elsie Naudé Kommunika (CEICP), Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria, PO Box 951, Sedgefield 6573, South Africa
  • Brenda Louw Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria
  • Albert Weideman Unit for language skills development, University of Pretoria


The development of language and communication skills in young children is directly related to future academic success. Young children who are at risk for language impairment should, therefore, be identified as early as possible. Multilingualism, which has become a universal phenomenon, may mask the presence of language impairment. In South African urban multilingual preschool contexts, the teacher or speech-language therapist is not always proficient in the young multilingual learner's primary language. Assessment of learners' language behaviour is usually conducted in English, which is generally the language of mutual understanding. The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of constructing a profile of typical English language behaviours for pre-school (English Additional Language)EAL learners in a circumscribed urban area. The profile is intended to provide speech-language therapists and pre-school teachers in collaborative practice with a dual-purpose tool: (i) an instrument for identifying those learners who are at risk for language impairment/language learning disabilities, and (ii) a means of obtaining guidelines for the development of an appropriate programme for facilitating language development. The results show that it was possible to construct a profile of typical English language behaviours for nine aspects of language form, one aspect of language content, and six aspects of language use.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2007, 25(4): 519–538

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614