BACKGROUND : South African speech-language therapists have identified the need for culturally
valid and sensitive assessment tools that can accommodate multiple languages and cover
a reasonable age range. The Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) extend from birth to
68 months, contain five separate subscales including receptive language, expressive language,
gross motor, fine motor and visual reception scale, are straightforward to administer and
have been successfully used in other African countries, such as Uganda. It also identifies a
child’s strengths and weaknesses and provides a solid foundation for intervention planning.
OBJECTIVES : This research aimed to demonstrate the appropriateness and usefulness of the
translated and culturally and linguistically adapted MSEL across four South African languages
(Afrikaans, isiZulu, Setswana and South African English) through two sub-aims: (1) to describe
differences, if any, in MSEL performance across language groups and (2) to describe differences,
if any, in MSEL performance between age groups.
METHOD : A total of 198 typically developing children between the ages of 21 and 68 months
spread across the four language groups were individually assessed with the culturally and
linguistically adapted and translated MSEL.
RESULTS : A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed no statistically significant
differences between the four language groups for total MSEL scores. A Welch’s one-way
ANOVA showed that the total MSEL scores were significantly different between age groups.
CONCLUSION : The translation and adaptation of the MSEL was successful and did not advantage
or disadvantage children based on their home language, implying that linguistic equivalence
was achieved. The MSEL results differed between age groups, suggesting that the measure was
also successful in differentiating the performance of children at different developmental levels.