Original Research

Contextual influences on sentence repetition as a tool for the identification of language impairment in Grade 3 Sepedi-English bilinguals: A case against bilingual norms

Heila Jordaan, Monene H. Ngwanduli
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 67, No 1 | a762 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v67i1.762 | © 2020 Heila Jordaan, Monene H. Ngwanduli | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 April 2020 | Published: 04 September 2020

About the author(s)

Heila Jordaan, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Monene H. Ngwanduli, Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Specific language impairment (SLI) is difficult to identify because it is a subtle linguistic difficulty, and there are a few measures available to differentiate between typical and atypical language development in bilinguals. Sentence repetition (SR) has strong theoretical foundations and research evidence as a valid tool for the identification of SLI in bilinguals.

Objective: This study assessed the value of SR using peer group comparisons to identify Sepedi-English bilingual children at the risk of SLI.

Method: One hundred and two Grade 3 learners in three different contexts of education were assessed on equivalent English and Sepedi SR measures.

Results: Eleven participants who scored between 1 and 2 standard deviations (SD) below the peer group means on both the English and Sepedi SR tests were identified with possible SLI. Learners in the English language of learning and teaching (LoLT) – Sepedi additional language (SAL) context obtained similar scores in both languages, a higher score in English than the English LoLT group and a higher score in Sepedi than the Sepedi LoLT – EAL group. The English LoLT group obtained a significantly higher score in English than in Sepedi and a significantly lower score than the other two groups in Sepedi. The Sepedi LoLT group obtained a significantly higher score in Sepedi than in English, their additional language, in which they obtained a significantly lower score than the other two groups.

Conclusion: Sentence repetition tasks are valid screening tools to identify bilingual children with SLI by comparing them to peer groups. The SR tests were sensitive to language practices in different educational contexts. It was observed that a bilingual approach that uses both English and the home language as academic languages leads to better language outcomes.


Keywords

sentence repetition; Sepedi-English bilingual; specific language impairment; educational contexts.

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