The development of language and communication skills in young children is directly related to future academic success. Young children who are at risk for language impairment should, therefore, be identified as early as possible so that their language development may be optimised. Multilingualism, which has become a universal phenomenon, may mask the presence of language impairment if the pre-school teacher or speech-language therapist is not proficient in the young multilingual learner’s primary language. In some urban areas of South Africa, where many languages are represented in each pre-school classroom, it is likely that the teacher or therapist will lack proficiency in the primary language of quite a number of the pre-school learners. In these contexts, the language of mutual understanding is English and assessment of learners’ language behaviour will also be conducted in English. Against this background the aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of constructing a profile of typical English language behaviours for pre-school EAL learners in a circumscribed urban area. The profile is intended to provide speech-language therapists and pre-school teachers in collaborative practice with a dual-purpose tool: an instrument for identifying those learners who are at risk for language impairment/language learning disabilities, and a means of obtaining guidelines for the development of an appropriate programme for facilitating language development. The literature study reviewed the language diversity in South African pre-schools, and the role of speech-language therapists in these multilingual pre-schools. The aspects of language to be included in a profile of typical English language behaviours for young EAL learners were discussed. A quantitative descriptive research design was selected. The language database for 30 EAL pre-schoolers from a circumscribed geographical area was collected during 20 minutes of conversation between each pre-school participant and a trained speech-language therapist who acted as research fieldworker. The language data was analysed to identify typical language behaviours relating to language form, language content and language use. The results show that it was possible to construct a profile of typical English language behaviours for nine aspects of language form, one aspect of language content, and six aspects of language use. The information was used to construct two versions of a profile of typical English language behaviours, as well as a profile of risk indicators for language impairment in the specified group of EAL pre-schoolers. An action plan was designed to indicate the way in which these three profiles – the comprehensive profile, the essential classroom profile, and the profile of risk indicators – may be used by the collaborative team of speech-language therapist and pre-school teacher for language assessment, the identification of learners with language impairment, and the facilitation of language development for all EAL learners.
Thesis (DPhil (Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.
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Human language technology (HLT) has been identified as a priority area
by the South African government. However, despite efforts by government and the
research and development (R&D) community, South Africa has not yet ...