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Development and validation of a bilingual language battery for language-based learning disabilities.

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There are social, linguistic, cultural, and political dimensions that impact on health and education in South Africa. The evolving nature of these dimensions demand the use of language assessment tools that are developed and validated for the South African population. Speech-language assessment informs parents and educators of the nature of speech and language difficulties the learner may have and guides the intervention. IsiZulu is the most widely spoken African language in South Africa. Therefore, development of a tool to assess expressive, receptive, and written language skills of learners with language-based learning disorders in isiZulu, is imperative. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a tool for language assessment of isiZulu-English speaking learners in grades 1, 2, and 3 who may have language-based learning disabilities. An assessment tool was designed to assess core language skills and identify early indicators of language-based learning disabilities that may result in academic difficulties. The tool development process aimed to construct an innovative test that is linguistically and culturally sensitive to bilingual or isiZulu-English speakers while the content is rich for identifying indicators of language-based learning disability. Elements in expressive and receptive language, phonological awareness, listening, reading, and mathematically-based language concepts were considered. The conceptual tool development phase involved a systematic literature review, pretesting with two existing tools and consultation of a five member Delphi review panel for advice and reviews. Field trials contributed to the development of test items and procedures and tested the tool’s application in mainstream and remedial schools as well as rural and urban communities of learners in KwaZulu-Natal. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect and analyse data. The results indicated that the new tool was linguistically and culturally appropriate. The majority of the subtests provided good reliability and valid results. The study makes a worthy contribution to the body of knowledge in the field of speech-language therapy and basic education. The results and guidelines from this study set out the basic elements required for development of language assessment tools in other African languages. The development of the assessment tool will yield standardization of a bilingual language assessment tool in South Africa.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.