The Bilingual English Spanish Assessment

We’re very excited to let everyone know that now, after a number of years of development and testing the BESA is available to speech-language pathologists.


My co-authors and I developed the Bilingual English Spanish Assessment (BESA) in response to a critical need for valid, reliable instruments to assessment of speech and language ability in Spanish-English bilingual children. It focuses on children (ages 4 years, 0 months through 6 years, 11 months) who have varying levels of Spanish-English bilingualism. BESA was specifically developed to determine if speech and/or language errors observed in some young children were due to limited exposure to English or to a language impairment. We know that with time, children with typical development will learn a second language. But, at the same time, early intervention for children who have speech and language impairment is critical.

The BESA components include:

  • two questionnaires to explore a child’s exposure to, and use of, both languages at home and in preschool, and allow parents and teachers to express areas of concern;
  • one unscored Pragmatic Activity (used to establish rapport before testing starts which allows a direct observation of how a child uses language in conversation, and
  • three subtests (in both Spanish and English) to address morphosyntax, semantics, and phonology.

The BESA components may be used independently, or together as an assessment battery. Subtest raw scores are reported as scaled scores, standard scores, percentile ranks and age-equivalents. The test norms were derived using data from over 600 bilingual children living in the US. We include (in the manual) an extensive exploration of the background issues surrounding the assessment of language acquisition and language impairment in bilingual children.


Spanish speakers are the largest language minority in the US and make up 79 percent of the school age English language learners. Usually, these children learn Spanish at home and English when they start preschool or kindergarten. It is hard to test kids during this period of transition because their first language may be changing because of exposure to a second language, but they do not yet know their second language well.

Bilingual children with speech and language impairment have many of the same difficulties in the domains of speech and language as monolingual children, with difficulties in the area of grammatical morphology and language productivity. At the same time, bilingual children make many of the same errors as monolinguals with speech and language impairment that are associated with learning a second language.

You can use the BESA to test in both Spanish and English. We have a system to combine scores into composites that have very good sensitivity and specificity across the three domains.










Semantics + Morphosyntax Composite






So, all in all we’re happy and very excited. We hope that bilingual clinicians will find this useful.

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  1. #1 by Janet Patterson on November 12, 2013 - 9:59 am

    Wonderful news! Congratulations and thanks for persisting to make this much needed tool available.

  2. #2 by Elizabeth D. Peña on November 18, 2013 - 11:08 pm

    Thanks Janet!

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