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Workshop on language assessment for bilingual children aged 4 to 8 years

 
 

The Carl Benz House in Ladenburg hosted a gathering on the subject of “Language level assessment for preschool and primary-school children” on 2 and 3 November 2023 – just as the Federal Chancellor was articulating the demand for regular comparative tests of children’s language skills, at the Citizens’ Dialogue in neighboring Mannheim. This topic is of great importance throughout Germany: Tests that are actually intended to determine the language skills of multilingual children still largely have a monolingual format. As a result, many children are erroneously diagnosed with a language development disorder. These incorrect diagnoses lead to massive disadvantages for the lives of the children concerned – and in the long term for society as a whole.

To address this problem, the Daimler and Benz Foundation, under the management of Prof. Dr. Jörg Roche from LMU Munich, funded a project over several years with the aim of developing an appropriate test procedure for diagnosing language levels among multilingual children (https://www.daimler-benz-stiftung.de/cms/de/forschen/ladenburger-kollegs/sprachstandsermittlung-bei-kindern-mit-migrationshintergrund.html). The interdisciplinary research team consisted of linguists, statisticians, and psychologists from several German and Swiss universities. In 2023, the prototype of an app that can be used in daycare centers and kindergartens was presented at a specialist colloquium in Munich.

In June 2023, a further team coordinated by Prof. Dr. Natalia Gagarina from the Leibniz Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) in Berlin was granted funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This project set out to validate a standardized test battery that had previously been developed as part of an international EU project and systematically takes into account the central linguistic criteria – phonology, grammar, vocabulary and recounting – in a procedure for multilingual children. The outcome of the validation project is now to be put into practice under the name TEBIK 4–8 (Test for Bilingual Children from 4 to 8 Years).

On invitation from the Daimler and Benz Foundation, the two teams of scientists came together for a trustful and constructive workshop. It turned out that their respective approaches are based on a similar evaluation of the status quo in language level diagnosis and pursue corresponding goals. Both teams are aiming to improve the diagnostic methods and prepare effective support measures. The cooperation is to be expanded in order to improve language level diagnostics in Germany and to establish suitable support and therapy measures.