Speech and language therapy (SLT) services are coming under increased pressure to provide people living in linguistic minority communities with assessment and intervention in the language of the community in which the client lives. Guidelines for best practice state that assessment of communication skills should take place in all the languages to which that person is exposed (RCSLT, 2006). In Ireland, Irish although a minority language, enjoys a positive attitude and a high status as the first official language of Ireland. However, there is little known about Irish language acquisition in typically developing children, let alone assessment tools or developmental pathways for speech and language therapists to work with.
This study adapted a well-known tool for measuring early vocabulary and grammatical development, The MacArthur- Bates Communicative Development Inventories (Fenson, Marchman, Thal, Dale, Reznick, & Bates, 2007), to Irish and measured the language acquisition of 21 children with Irish as a first language longitudinally from 16-40 months. As children acquiring Irish are inevitably exposed to English, the assessment also logged the children¿s bilingual language development. Spontaneous language samples and elicitation tasks were also used to measure the reliability and validity of the tool.
Results show that Irish-speaking children develop vocabulary at a relatively similar rate to children acquiring other languages, but the content of their vocabulary is somewhat different. The longitudinal nature of this study also allowed for in-depth analysis of how and when the majority language begins to develop and its effect on the minority language being acquired.
This study will familiarise clinicians with the criteria that are important for evaluating tests used across the profession. These findings have implications for developing assessment tools for bilingual and minority languages and for crosslinguisitc research in general.
Fenson, L., Marchman, V. A., Thal, D. J., Dale, P. S., Reznick, J. S., & Bates, E. (2007). MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs), User's guide and technical manual (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Brooks Publishing.
RCSLT. (2006). Communicating Quality 3 London: RCSLT