Language impairment in bilingual children
by Sarah

Language impairment in bilingual children

Research and clinical practice in France, the UK, and the USA

Date: 23 June 2017

Location: Building L022, Lecturing Theatre G01, London Road

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Several migration waves within the past two decades have led to an increase in the number of children worldwide who start (pre)school in a language that is not their home language. While teachers can often tell that a monolingual child’s language is not as expected for her age and speech and language therapists can successfully identify language impairment in monolingual children, this is far from obvious when the language they evaluate is the child's second language.

The identification of language impairment in bilingual children poses a challenge for speech & language therapists and has clear educational repercussions: How do we know if a child’s language difficulties are due to language impairment or due to insufficient exposure to the language we use to assess? Numerous studies have documented how bilingual children with language impairment are over- or under-represented in speech-language therapy caseloads.

This issue instigated interest across the globe and led to the funding of several research projects, including the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action IS0804 ‘Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic Patterns and the Road to Assessment’ ( and Advancing the European Multilingual Experience (AThEME). COST Action IS0804 designed a comprehensive set of tools for assessing the language abilities of bilingual children across a large number of languages (Armon-Lotem, de Jong, & Meir, 2015), some of which are being used in AThEME. Moreover, Lisa Bedore and colleagues at the University of Texas have developed the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA), which has been normed for bilingual children in the USA (Peña, Gutiérrez-Clellen, Iglesias, Goldstein, & Bedore, 2014).

This day workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners from France, the UK, and the USA who work with bilingual children with language impairment. The presentations will illustrate assessment material for bilingual children and how they can be used to make diagnostic decisions and plan interventions.

During the coffee and lunch breaks and at the end of the workshop, guests can attend our art exhibition titled ‘Point of Entry’ by Duncan Swann.

CeLM is proud to host a week of celebratory events from Monday 19 June to Friday 23 June. Events across the week will be open to a range of audiences and will mark the official launch for CeLM, an interdisciplinary research institute based at the University of Reading.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Lisa Bedore (University of Texas)

Professor Philippe Prevost (Université François-Rabelais)

This free event is funded by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM).

Workshop schedule:

9:00-10:00: Registration & tea/coffee

10:00-10:30: Theo Marinis: Welcome & Introduction, language assessments for bilingual children

10:30-11:30: Philippe Prévost: Assessing bilingual children in France and Lebanon using Sentence Repetition and Non-Word Repetition as promising assessment tools

This presentation will highlight the relevance of using sentence repetition (SR) and nonword repetition (NWR) tasks that are built around linguistic properties known to be challenging for children with SLI in the clinical assessment of bilingual children (the so-called LITMUS-SR and -NWR tasks developed during COST Action IS0804). Two different contexts of bilingualism will be explored, one where the majority language is learned besides a home language (French in France) and the other where a language is being learned alongside other languages (Arabic in Lebanon). Different language combinations will also be involved (Arabic/French, Portuguese/French and Turkish/French in France, and Arabic/English and Arabic/French in Lebanon). Results from different studies show that the two LITMUS repetition tasks are very promising tools for the identification of SLI in bilingual children aged 5 to 8. Importantly, the distinction between bilingual children with and without SLI was not linked, in either country, to differences related to factors of bilingual development, such as length of exposure and age of onset, which suggests that the tasks are efficient across language combinations and sociolinguistic contexts of bilingualism.

11:30-12:30: Group activities to identify the challenges and needs of SLTs working with bilingual children

12:30-13.30: Lunch & exhibition visit

13:30-15:30: Lisa Bedore: Clinical Decision Making for Bilingual Children with Language Impairment

When bilingual children are referred for clinical assessment it is challenging to determine if he or she has a communication impairment because language skills are more variable than what we expect for monolingual children.  In this presentation we will explore the use of parent and teacher interviews, standardized tests, and narrative language sampling to support clinical decision making regarding diagnosis and intervention processes.

Attendees will interpret standardized test data and use assessment protocols for making decisions based on language sampling that can be employed in everyday practice with bilingual children. 

15:30-16:00: General discussion

Admission is free, capped for 40 participants. Registration is required. Book your place(s) now to avoid disappointment.



Bilingualism Matters @ Reading

Bilingualism Matters provides training, advice and information on child bilingualism.