Tests over time: evaluating the currency of normative data in a complex multilingual environment

Christine Brebner, Helen Chandler Yeo, Magdeline Goh, Karryn Kam, Wendy Yeo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Assessment of oral language skills is challenging in multilingual environments. With language policies promoting increased use of English and reduction of dialectal varieties of languages, rapid changes in language further confound assessment.Purpose: This study explores the currency of normative data on an expressive language screening tool in English for English-Mandarin bilingual Singaporean children.Method: Spoken language samples in English from 101 pre-school children were compared with those from 481 children in the original data collection in 2002. Scores for expressive vocabulary and morphosyntax were compared for the two main language groups.Result: Results indicate that the normative data for English-dominant children are still current. The data for younger Mandarin-dominant children showed improved test scores, indicating improvement in expressive morphosyntax in English.Conclusion: English language competency has changed over time for Mandarin-dominant children in Singapore, likely due to the influence of language policy on language use. This is a particular challenge in multilingual environments. Current literature emphasizes the need to develop language assessments specific to populations and language groups for standardized assessments to be valid and reliable. These results demonstrate the need to monitor normative data and characteristics of language over time and to update standardized language assessments accordingly.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)556-564
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2015


    • Assessment
    • Bilingualism
    • Language development


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