Purpose

This study evaluated a newly developed quasi-universal nonword repetition task (Q-U NWRT) as a diagnostic tool for bilingual children with language impairment (LI) who have Dutch as a 2nd language. The Q-U NWRT was designed to be minimally influenced by knowledge of 1 specific language in contrast to a language-specific NWRT with which it was compared.

Method

One hundred twenty monolingual and bilingual children with and without LI participated (30 per group). A mixed-design analysis of variance was used to investigate the effects of LI and bilingualism on the NWRTs. Receiver operating characteristic analyses were conducted to evaluate the instruments' diagnostic value.

Results

Large negative effects of LI were found on both NWRTs, whereas negative effects of bilingualism only occurred on the language-specific NWRT. Both instruments had high clinical accuracy in the monolingual group, but only the Q-U NWRT had high clinical accuracy in the bilingual group.

Conclusions

This study indicates that the Q-U NWRT is a promising diagnostic tool to help identify LI in bilingual children learning Dutch as a 2nd language. The instrument was clinically accurate in both a monolingual and bilingual group of children and seems better able to disentangle LI from language disadvantage than more language-specific measures.

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