Assessing the language skills of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds: The expressive vocabulary performance of Singaporean English-Mandarin bilingual preschoolers
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Standardized language assessments such as the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Pre-school 2 United Kingdom (CELF Preschool 2 UK) are often used in speech-language pathology clinics to determine if a child is at risk of language difficulties. Many of these assessments are designed and standardized for use with monolingual Standard English-speaking children. It is thus recommended that these assessments should only be used with the populations they were designed for; if not test bias might result. However, such tests are still selected and used in the clinics of many multicultural and multilinguistic communities (e.g., Singapore). This research aimed to explore the performance of 79 Singaporean English-Mandarin pre-school children on the Expressive Vocabulary (EV) sub-test of the CELF Preschool 2 UK and to determine if their performance on the EV sub-test accurately reflected their language abilities by comparing their performance on a local screening language assessment tool, the Singapore English Action Picture Test (SEAPT). Results showed that local children performed poorly as compared to their UK counterparts. Two plausible reasons for the findings are: (1) the sub-test elicited only a single measure in English which ignored the language abilities of these bilingual children in their second language; and (2) the presence of culturally and linguistically biased test items.