Developing oral language skills are assets: A longitudinal study
assessing young students’ oral language skills in three languages in
Background: Most oral language assessments measure competency in just
one language, which risks describing multilingual children by their
deficits as opposed to capturing their knowledge across languages
(assets). Methods: The Multi-Language Assessment (MLA) was developed to
be a brief, direct tool to capture young children’s expressive language
skills across three languages. This study explored its use in a
longitudinal design that followed kindergartners (N = 200, with exposure
to three languages (English, Kiswahili, Kikamba) over 7 months in
government schools in rural Kenya. Results: The MLA loaded on a single
factor (0.21–0.60), was valid for the construct, stable, reliably
administered (97% consistency), and informative as a supplement to
measurements of reading achievement. There was sufficient power to
describe individual changes in language use as well as predictive power.
It explained 26% of the variance in letter sounds and 21% of the
variance in spelling. Conclusions: It was most sensitive to showing
language changes over time for children with middle and lower abilities.
Children who could demonstrate complete or partial knowledge of
concepts, improved their mastery and expressed some preference for
mother tongue. The MLA fills a gap to capture the expressive language
skills of young children in multilingual environments.