Combining Tests Results across 2 Languages

We have been working on the question of how to best identify language impairment in bilinguals for a long time. One guideline that has been around for a long time is to test in both languages. In workshops and in presentations I often will repeat TEST IN BOTH LANGUAGES, test in both languages… But, how should results from two languages be combined?

There aren’t really any tested procedures for this. I think that generally we expect that children be low in both of their languages and it makes perfect sense. We don’t expect a child to demonstrate language impairment in only one language. That type of case would more likely be one of incomplete acquisition or language loss.

In a new paper by Peña, Bedore, & Kester, we tested two options for combining two languages using the semantics subtest of the BESA. One was to consider a total semantics score and the other was to use a 2-dimensional score. In both cases we used conceptual scoring– this is because the semantics subtest of the BESA has different items in each language. Both approaches worked pretty well.

For the total semantics score, we added the two standard scores. This allowed us to pool all the children regardless of their age. The mean for the typical bilinguals was 192 and the mean for the LI bilinguals was 135. The cut point was 163. This solution identified children with language impairment 93.3% correct (sensitivity) and identified typical children as typical with 85.7% accuracy (specificity).

The two-dimensional approach examined children’s scores in each language as a pair. If they were below the cut point in each language (88 for English, 85 for Spanish) then they were classified as having language impairment. This approach identified 93% of impaired children as impaired (sensitivity) and 97% of the typical children as typical (specificity).  Below, you can see an illustration of the process.



xygraph 2 dimension

All in all, we’re pretty satisfied with this result. It would be interesting to see how well this approach would work for other tests that are available in two languages.

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  1. #1 by Nilou on December 28, 2015 - 5:00 pm

    Very intressering! well done.
    Actually, I am intresserad in finding a similar way to screening reading difficulties in bilingual children. I suppose that such an approach can also be applicable in terms of reading difficulties and bilingualism.

  2. #2 by Hermione on March 1, 2016 - 11:40 pm

    that was so fascinating

  3. #3 by Ayezah Ang on March 2, 2016 - 3:18 am

    i will share this to my friends

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  4. #4 by Maida Bermudez Bosch on February 2, 2017 - 5:34 pm

    This is very interesting. Do you think that based on this article you have discussed that other SLPs could use the same approach with different tests. For example: overal language standard score on the OWLS-2 and Spanish PLS-5 as one data point on the graph and then another data point for expressive and receptive vocabulary scores (PPVT/ EVT and EO/RO (Spanksh)? Also using language sample as well for additional data.

  5. #5 by Elizabeth D. Peña on February 2, 2017 - 5:44 pm

    Hi Maida
    In theory I think that it could be used for parallel tests in two languages or to display scores in L1 against scores in L2, but to pair them the two tests would have to be testing the same domain (so Spanish and English phonology, Spanish and English grammar, etc. and we have done with with the other tests on the BESA including phonology and grammar, as well as the parent and teacher reports) This certainly has been done for language sample data. To the extent that this would work to give you good diagnostic data is more dependent on whether the measure has good sensitivity/specificity in each language to start with.

  6. #6 by jual Fiforlif on March 7, 2017 - 3:47 am

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  1. Reporting Bilingual Results | 2 Languages 2 Worlds
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