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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Assessment of children from a bi-or multilingual context at risk for language impairment

Grant reference: RES-451-26-0707

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Impact Report details

Assessment of children from a bi- or multicultural context at risk for language impairment
The main outcome from this seminar series has been the development of a strong network of researchers in this area in the UK and beyond. Involvement of some of the group members in a related European COST Action has facilitated contacts throughout Europe. In some cases this has stimulated individual research funding applications and, more importantly, the group is developing a number of further proposals together. Equally important is the dissemination of information, procedures and strategies to professionals who work with language impairment, chiefly speech & language therapists. Members of the group have participated in continuing professional development workshops and have produced a number of written outputs aimed at supporting the work of clinicians and educators. Two members of the group are also co-editing a special edition of 'Child Language Teaching and Therapy' around the theme of working with bilingual children.

Primary contributor

Organiser Carolyn Letts

Additional contributors

Organiser Ghada Khattab


Through presentations and discussions at the seminar series meetings, the group has developed understanding in the following areas: 1. Principles of formal language aquisition assessment across languages, with particular focus on linguistic characteristics of the target languages. 2. Use of dynamic assessment in the context of assessing the language of bilingual children. 3. Scoping of knowledge needed at different linguistic levels in any given language or language combination, for successful assessment of language development in individual children. Members of the group have been able to use the contacts they have made to further their work in these areas. As a result of contacts made during this seminar series and the previous one organised by Letts/Khattab, two members of the group have participated in the EU COST Action 'Language Impairment in a Multilingual Society: Linguistic patterns and the road to assessment'. Khattab has been asked to join a funded Nordic network on phonological and lexical acquisition and has been invited to be an international expert on a panel working to define international best practice guidlines when working with mulitlingual children's speech, plan collaborative projects and share resources.

A number of written outputs have been produced by members of the group which draw on the seminar series, but at this stage these contribute mainly to economic/social impact (see below). Applications for further research funding are being developed by the group in the following areas: 1. Early indicators of specific language impairment in a multilingual society (lead Marinis) 2. Second language English acquisition in young children (lead Letts). 3. Developmental trajectories of bilingual children in the UK: languages, cultures and SES (lead Gathercole). Additionally, individual members of the group are developing proposals around language impairment in bilingual Welsh-English children (Gathercole), markers of specific language impairment in Welsh (Thomas) and L1 and L2 phonological development in Arabic (Khattab). It is anticipated that outputs influenced by the seminar series will continue for some years to come, as projects are developed and research findings disseminated.

Presentations and discussion at the seminar series meetings, including inviting internationally recognised guest speakers.

Members of the seminar series group, through the opportunities to collaborate and explore ideas together. These individuals each belong to wider networks of colleagues and research students for whom there has been an impact to a greater or lesser degree. For example, colleagues from Newcastle University (Stringer, Law) contributed presentations at one of the meetings of the group and participated in subsequent discussion. Gathercole encouraged one of her PhD students to contribute to the special issue of 'Child Language Teaching and Therapy' (see below). Co-researchers and PhD students of members of the group have also been invited to one-off meetings of the series, where it has been useful for them to do so. Letts was able to use the insights gained to successfully apply for funding to spend a term as a visiting researcher at the Centre for Research in Bilingualism at Bangor University in Autumn 2010.

This seminar series (and one funded previously by the ESRC) grew out of a need for research and assessment tools to meet the needs of children with suspected language impairment who speak languages other than English and/or are bilingual. A number of written outputs and workshops have been produced aimed at professionals who work with such children (see below). It is anticipated that these will have an impact on the practice of speech & language therapists and other professionals (e.g. teachers, educational psychologists), for example by increasing awareness of the influence of the structure of different languages on any inidvidual child's linguistic profile, and by developing appropriate assessment tools. However it is still too soon to evaluate the extent of this impact or to know precisely if and how practice will have changed.

Written outputs by members of the group include: 1. Letts, C. & Sinka, I. (2011) 'Multilingual Toolkit' produced as part of an assessment tool (New Reynell Developmental Language Scales), giving guidelines for adapting assessment procedures to language other than Engish (London: GL-Assessment). 2. Stow, C., Pert, S. & Khattab, G. (2011). Sociolinguistic and cultural considerations when working with the Pakistani Heritage Community in England. In S. McLeod & B. Goldstein (eds) 'Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children'. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, (pp 24-27). 3. Gathercole, V.C. M. (2010). Bilingual children: Language and assessment issues for educators. In C. Wood, K. Littleton & J. Kleine Staarman (eds) ' Handbook of Educations Psychology. Elsevier (pp715-749). Additionally, Gathercole has an edited book in press entitled 'Bilinguals and Assessment: state of the art guide to issues and solutions around the world', to which Letts has contributed a chapter. The international expert panel which Khattab belongs to has written a position paper on working with multilingual children with speech sound disorders which is intended to inform future design of assessments for multilingual children. Letts and Sinka are editing a special edition of the journal 'Child Language Teaching and Therapy' on 'Research and Practice in the Language and Comminication needs of Multilingual Children'. Contacts built up during the seminar series has greatly facilitated the review process for this. Members of the group contributed to a practitioner event held at Bangor University in July 2012. Letts and Sinka have given a number of workshops in using the 'Multilingual Toolkit', most recently in Chatham and in Cork, Republic of Ireland.

See above. By giving workshops. contributing to practitioner events and producing articles and books aimed at supporting practice.

Speech & language therapists and education professionals. Through working with these professionals, children with language impairment who are bilingual. Future researchers in this field.

See above. Anticipated impact on the ways in which practitioners assess children with potential language impairment, leading to more accurate identification and interventions tailored to the children's needs.

Cite this outcome


Letts, Carolyn and Khattab, Ghada. Assessment of children from a bi-or multilingual context at risk for language impairment: ESRC Impact Report, RES-451-26-0707. Swindon: ESRC


Letts Carolyn and Khattab Ghada. Assessment of children from a bi-or multilingual context at risk for language impairment: ESRC Impact Report, RES-451-26-0707. Swindon: ESRC.