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This Week’s Episode: Linguistic Diversity and Narrative Assessments

So far in this month’s podcast series, we’ve reviewed a few of our favorite formal assessments and the importance of narratives in everyday life. We dove in and took a closer look at the different language structures with informal assessments.

Last week Monica and I shared tips on how to collect language samples to help minimize your stress levels and collect a valuable language sample!

This week we are moving along to a very important topic: Linguistic Diversity and Narrative Assessments. I have to tell you that part of the reason I’m so grateful to be sharing the mic with Monica is that we have double the experience to draw from. 😍

Especially this week because Monica has a ton of experience with linguistic diversity in the schools — and she generously shared what she’s learned about navigating this with her caseload.

Let’s get to it!

Here’s what we discussed:

If you don’t speak the student’s language, make sure you have a native speaker to translate for you during the assessments.
– Build rapport with the student.
– Interview the parent/guardian.
– What is the student’s dominant language at home?
– What language do they prefer to use?
– Take a language sample in their native language and their second language and compare the two.
– Is that language sample the language that they are most comfortable with?
– Don’t assume things based on a student’s ethnicity.

Quick Links

Cornell University: The Multilingual Language Use Questionnaire
Tips and Tricks for Working with Bilingual Students with Liliana Vasquez (The Bilingual Speechie)
The Portland State University website
BiLingustics: What Story-Telling Elements do All Cultures Share?

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Thanks so much!


Marisha: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech-language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.
Hello there and welcome the SLP Now Podcast. I am your host Marisha and this month we are diving into all things narratives. So if you head back to episode 90, you can hear a little bit about how Monica and I tackle narrative assessment and just kind of our framework for it. Then the rest of the episodes throughout the month for 91, 92, 93, we'll dive into specific aspects of assessment and just things that we want to consider when we're getting ready to target narratives in therapy.
Without further ado, let's dive right in.
Now, let's dive into linguistic diversity. Monica, you've gotten some really great experience with this at your schools, and so I'm going to let you take it away and just kind of tell us a little bit about how you navigate this with your caseload and just some experience shares if you're willing to dive into all that.

Monica: For sure. So I am not bilingual in English or Spanish, so when I'm doing these assessments I make sure that I have a native speaker translator with me. She's a professionally trained translator who is able to help with all of the testing. So beforehand I'll make sure that I kind of give her a heads up, like I want to make sure I do a language sample today. She's got a little reference to look at for maybe, "Oh, I'm looking for past tense, because that's something that I heard in English that they didn't have."
So, we're just doing little things like that. So we do a little kind of catch up before I go get the student, and then I make sure that I've talked to parents about language usage at home. So, what is their dominant language at home that they prefer using? If the student is old enough, I ask them, what language do you like using? Because that's going to be the best indication of what they're comfortable with.
I ask about their siblings in the home, like parents, do you feel like they are at the same level that your other children were at if there are other kids in the home or cousins or their friends that they play with, do you feel like in whichever language, native language or English, how do you feel like they're doing? Just because if the students are only speaking English at school, you're not going to get a measure of that. Especially if that student is shy, they're not going to want to talk to two new adults in the same room. An assessment like that can feel really overwhelming for kids, so is the sample that I got the same as how they talk at home in that language for the translator that I have?
Then Marisha, you sent this cool language use questionnaire from Cornell that I've never seen before that I liked too. So it's information about it, how fluent do the parents feel? What is their education level, language use questions, information about your parents, information about grandparents and then attitudes towards the language. Because that does come up frequently in meetings where parents will say, "Someone told me that they should only be exposed to English." You're like, "Full stop. No."
It's unfortunate that that might be the first time that someone has told them absolutely expose your child, children to your native language. So, that's also something that you can find when you're doing that parent interview or parent questionnaire that you sent home.

Marisha: I have that quick little plug here. So I learned about that resource from Liliana Vazquez from the Bilingual Speechie, and we did a podcast interview, I think it was in July, so almost a year ago. If you guys want to check it out, it's at, but she shares a bunch of tips and tricks for working with bilingual students as well. She's the one who shared this language use questionnaire with me. We're just doing a quick little conversation, but that can be a good place to dive in if you want to find more information too.

Monica: Yeah, for sure. It sounds like an awesome resource. So, the other things to take into account are just cultural differences. So I'm Asian American, as a child I was really shy, but even though that's kind of like a stereotype, not all Asian kids are going to be like that, so that's a good place to kind of check where you are. Am I assuming that this child is a certain way because of their ethnicity? Maybe you might have to build more rapport before you dive into an assessment.
You can talk to parents, are they usually comfortable around adults? So if you're thinking about stuff like eye contact or body language, are you taking those different cultural things into consideration and not counting it as something that needs to be worked on? Because it might not be, it's just something that they do with their family. Especially for students who come over here from a different country, and they are dealing with a lot more than just trying to come into a whole new culture.
But yeah, we kind of talked about how to ask parents and teachers if that language sample is representative of how much they speak at home when they're comfortable, but dynamic assessments really are the big thing. So we kind of talked about it a little bit, but it's just like you're not necessarily going to get that type of input with formalized standardized assessments. So, you were looking at the norming population and it's not great for the student that you want to, maybe they have a language that that student wasn't even a part of that norming population. So, that's really where you want to pull in that dynamic assessment to be able to measure their skill for learning things when the language isn't there.
We talked about making sure you use a translator to make sure that you're measuring their skill in their native language, and then being able to compare that. So, if you're comparing two different language samples and you're comparing the language sample in their native language and they're comparing the sample in the English language, you're going to want to account for language differences in your language sample for English. Even if they have a dialect, it's AAE, you're going to want to look up things for that specific language.
So, I don't necessarily have one resource that I go to. I'm in California, so there are lots and lots of languages that could pop up here. We're really diverse in Southern California, so typically whatever language comes up is when I'll go and try and find it. So Marisha, I don't know if you had anything that you usually typically go to for that, or if you just kind of look it up on a case by case basis as well.

Marisha: Yeah, I think there's definitely some case by case research, but Liliana shared about, I believe it was from Portland State University, apparently they have a resource that I personally haven't used, but she talks about it in her podcast episode, So, that would be a great place to go for some additional inspiration and tools that we can use as well.

Monica: Awesome. So yeah, then when I am looking at the two different language samples, I'm accounting for those differences and then I am looking for the same thing that you would look for in each language sample kind of traditionally. The complexity of their language, do they use a lot of vocabulary, the length of their sentences, where their grammar is. Truly when I asked the kids, what do you like using more? Do you like using this one or this one? I would say the majority of time, because they're in school all day and a lot of times their parents will say they end up using English at home, it's something you can keep in the back of your mind that I just need to make sure that I'm not missing something with the native English and just making sure that you're testing it. But that is a good opener for the parents though to be like, "Even though they speak English at home, keep talking to them in your native language."
Then we talked about the LEADERSproject, but Bilinguistics is also a great research kind of based resource. They've got a lot of blog posts on there, a lot of free resources as well. I was trying to look for research articles for the differences between narratives for different cultures. There was one blog post from Bilinguistics about, I think Scott Prath wrote it, and what story grammar parts are consistent across cultures and what's different, I didn't find too much honestly.

Marisha: But even that, when we were talking as we were going through the research together, I thought that was absolutely fascinating. Maybe I should be ashamed, but that wasn't something that I thought of that different cultures would have differences in the story grammar elements, so that's something we should consider when we're writing those goals as well. So we'll definitely link to that article, because I think that's fascinating and really important to consider. It's not just the language structure and vocabulary and grammar, overall structure can be different as well.

Monica: Yeah, and I'm even thinking about when I watch K-dramas or if I watch American TV shows, that the storytelling even in those is really different a lot of times, so it really does become an embedded cultural thing. Then I am Chinese American, but I watch K-dramas all the time and I lived in Japan for a short time, so I watch a lot of Asian films and movies and everything, and it is, it's very different. A lot of times when you're watching the two, to go back and forth between American entertainment and Asian entertainment I feel like.
But back to that Bilinguistics one, they were referencing an article and they said that the things that would be the same across different cultures would be the initiating event, the attempt, the consequence, the resolution, and the setting, and then added onto that there were differences between that. So, I feel like that's at least kind of a good starting point.

Marisha: That is so fascinating. Yeah, I got really excited when you found that, that was really cool. So, just a couple of other thoughts. So, we talked about taking cultural differences into consideration and we talked about building rapport with the student, and then the teacher parent report will really come into play there, especially if we use the language use questionnaire, that can give us some good information.
I referenced Liliana's podcast episode where she talks about a resource to learn more about cultures. Google can be a good resource too, although we want to be critical of what we're reading, so making sure that we're getting good sources. But then I thought it would be interesting to talk about ... So, I loved your idea of showing the language sample and asking parents if that's typical of what they see at home. I think that's a good way to kind of approach that. I'm curious if there's anything else that we can do to be very mindful and sensitive to those differences?
One thing that I was thinking about was observing the interaction between ... I was also required to do classroom observations, so I think it could be interesting to observe the student interacting with peers, with the teacher. If they're all in the IEP meeting, we can see how they interact as well, or hopefully if we have the opportunity to see them before the meeting as well.
But Monica, do you have any other tips? If you feel like you're struggling to find the information online or in a journal article, do you have any other strategies to navigate that? Or how do you approach asking those questions?

Monica: Offhand before I forget, sometimes if I can't get a language sample in their native language, because it's overwhelming, there's two new adults in the room, I'll have the parents record a sample from home and then send it in. But I think that because you're asking parents, it's kind of a way in, like, "I want you to record this sample, because it's been kind of hard to get it while we're here." Then you can ask them, "Do you have these concerns?" In English, they forget this past tense, and then you can ask the parents are they also doing that in the native language? Do you have concerns with that?
So, then that can kind of be an opener to be like, "I want to hear your concerns. Are there other concerns when they are playing with neighborhood kids or their cousins or things like that? What concerns do you have?" Because then it's going to be through their lens and what their concerns are through their different culture or whatever they're doing.
So that can be a natural way, I think, to ask about concerns and ones that you might not consider. Because it might be something that is a big concern for you, but it might not be a big concern for parents. So as long as it's not impeding their ability to participate in school or be successful academically, than it might not be really high on my priority list. So, I think that is kind of an answer to your question.

Marisha: No, that was perfect. I haven't done that where I ask the parents to record a sample. That's such a great strategy and that can give us a whole different insight. Even if it's in the other language, we can work with the translator to analyze that as well. So, so many amazing resources, so helpful. Thank you for diving into this with me, Monica. We hope that this was super helpful for anyone listening in well, and we'll see you next time.
Thanks for listening to the SLP Now Podcast. This podcast is part of a course offered for continuing education through Speech Therapy PD, so yes, you can earn inaudible for listening to this podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episodes sent directly to you. See you next time.


Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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