Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Diagnosis of language abilities in multilingual children: Validation of a test battery (SPEAK)

According to a study by the Kaufmännische Krankenkasse, nearly one in ten children was diagnosed with a speech or language disorder requiring therapy in 2022. This can have a long-term negative impact on educational success without targeted intervention. A significant proportion of children diagnosed as having a language disorder grow up multilingually, i.e., they acquire German in parallel or succeeding another first language. Due to their heterogeneous acquisition conditions, the linguistic performance of multilingual children varies considerably and is often, as expected, below that of monolingual children of the same age in kindergarten and elementary schools. Consequently, it is difficult to distinguish between the need for therapy due to a language disorder, which is the responsibility of the health care system, and the need for additional language support, which is the responsibility of the education system. In addition to considering the context of acquisition, an adequate diagnosis requires the systematic assessment of the central linguistic levels of phonology, vocabulary, morphosyntax, and narration. To date, however, there is no validated and standardized procedure for multilingual children that meets these requirements. Therefore, a high number of over and under diagnoses can be assumed for the published figures.

The project aims to validate a test battery for multilingual children aged 4-8 years (TEBIK 4-8) that systematically considers the acquisition conditions of multilingual children and measures abilities in the aforementioned areas of phonology, vocabulary, morphosyntax, and narration. It is based on linguistically and test-psychologically based individual scales and a standardized parent questionnaire from the international project COST IS0804 (www.bi-sli.org). The scales and the questionnaire were adapted for German and are now to be transferred into medical, educational, and speech therapy practice.