UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Accent versus impairment in bilingual children : assessing bilingual children in English Hack, Jamie


Standard Speech Language Pathology (SLP) practice mandates accent not interfere with the assessment of bilingual children (Crago & Westernoff, 1997). However, in practice SLPs only have access to assessments that do not account for accent, potentially resulting in an over-referral of bilingual children. The current study compared the standard scores and phonological errors of 29 bilingual Cantonese or Mandarin English language learners (ages between 5;6 and 9;8 years) with 25 monolingual English children (ages between 6;8 and 9;4 years). Perceptual ratings of accent and proficiency by 10 SLPs of the children’s speech were compared with standard scores on the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation second edition (Goldman & Fristoe, 2002). The results of the tests revealed that bilingual children with an accent had significantly lower standard scores than monolingual children, but not in the impaired range. The SLPs reliably agreed on the level of accent and proficiency, but only accent correlated significantly with the standard score for bilingual children. Furthermore, a description of the phonology of the bilingual children showed patterns consistent with a speech impairment according to English typical developmental norms (Grunwell, 1981). These findings add quantitative and qualitative data to existing protocols, and discourage the assessment of bilingual children with tests standardized on first-language English-speaking children. Furthermore, the results suggest perceptual judgment is complementary to an SLP’s assessment of bilingual children.

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