New app to test multilingual children’s speech development

The new app Speakaboo enables speech therapists to assess multilingual children’s speech development. Kentalis Initiator and speech and language therapist Eefje van der Linden-Graafland: “it is really easy to use, and children like it a lot”.

Playful and practical

“Before, we used a handmade 3D-lottogame to test the children’s phonological development”, speech therapist Eefje van der Linden-Graafland explains. “The child names the picture, and I listen to the pronunciation, listen if it is right or wrong. The order of the words is chosen on purpose: the words start easy and become more difficult later in the game. This way of testing works well with monolingual Dutch children in the Netherlands, but we also see a lot of multilingual children in the Audiological Centers. When you test children in a language that is not you mother tongue, assessing is more difficult because you don’t know the order of acquisition of the speech sounds. Of course there is always an interpreter present to assist in such cases, but we as speech therapists have the right education to observe and assess the speech- and language development. An interpreter does not”.

Replay speech sounds

Eefje initiated the development of Speakaboo. Kentalis made it possible, and developed the App together with the speech therapists. “It is easy to use. You choose a language*, for example Turkish or Somali, and then you choose one of the two games. The child opens little doors on the tablet, and pictures pop up. The child names the picture, the app makes an audio-recording. How exactly did the child pronounce the word? In the app I can compare the child’s utterance to an adult native speaker’s example. It is also possible to replay the utterance in front of the parents. This helps me for example to explain the diagnosis.”

Less frightening

“Speakaboo has become a standard part of the speech-language diagnostic procedure” Eefje explains. “The whole procedure takes a lot of time, for example we also test vocabulary and the ability to talk in sentences. Children love to play a game on the tablet after a few tests. In the same time our testing continues. If a child is afraid to be tested, it helps to make them cooperate. It is great to see how even the shyest child starts to name pictures. Speakaboo does not only help testing, but also in diagnosing and treating children.”

Assess both languages

Is a multilingual child having speech difficulties? Then it is really important to look at both languages, Eefje knows. “If a child has certain difficulties in Dutch, you also want to know if the child has the same sort of problems in the native language. Only then you can decide if the child has a language delay due to insufficient exposure to the school language, or a developmental language disorder, in both languages.”

More information?

Visit the Speakaboo website