1: Get Detailed Language History
The first step in doing a speech-language evaluation with an interpreter for a student or client who speaks a language you don’t speak is to gather as much information as you can about the language they speak.
You want to know:
- Where is the family from?
- Have they moved from one place to another?
- What dialect of their language they speak?
- How frequently they speak each of their languages?
- How long have they spoken each language?
- Who do they use each language with?
Given all of the research that shows that language input drives language output, the answers to these questions help us understand what language we might expect them to use with more proficiency.
Here are some resources to help you gather a detailed language history.
2: Gather Information about the Student’s Native Language
Once you know the details about the family’s language, it’s time to gather all of the information you can about the language. Here are some of our go-to places to look for this information:
Information you want to gather to help you when conducting a speech-language evaluation with an interpreter include:
- Understanding Unique and Shared Speech Sounds
- Understanding Phonotactic Constraints
- Developmental Norms (Here’s a great resource for Spanish and English Norms)
- Contrastive Analysis of Language Features. This is done for you in the Difference or Disorder book but if you need to create your own, search for information on the home language and English. Differences between the languages such as not conjugating verbs (Mandarin), not using articles (Russian), different noun-adjective order (Spanish) should be noted so that you don’t mistakenly write these as goals
- Blank Venn Diagram with English Consonant Phonemes
3: Find an Interpreter
Finding an interpreter for a speech-language evaluation can be difficult. I recently needed a Khmer-English interpreter and counted 42 email exchanges with about 15 different people. I did find a great interpreter but it took a couple of weeks to do it. So, start early! Here are some of the ways you can go about finding an interpreter for a speech-language evaluation.
- International Students Office at Local University
- Religious or Cultural Centers in your area
- Local group of translators and interpreters – In Austin, Austin Area Association of Interpreters and Translators
- Linked-In/Facebook/Other Social Media
- Local Nonprofits supporting cultural groups
- Restaurants – I once called my favorite Thai restaurant to ask for help finding a Thai-English interpreter. Someone on their wait staff was working on her master’s in education. Bingo!
- Online translation services
- Parents who are bilingual – this is controversial, I know. We discussed it in detail at our conference during the workshop Evaluating Students Who Speak a Language You Don’t. You can access it inside SLP Impact.
4: Plan your assessment and share materials with your interpreter
You might not know exactly what measures you will use until you get into the assessment but run through your initial plan with your interpreter so they can be prepared.
If you are testing in Spanish, there are several Spanish-English options that are normed on people in the U.S. Beyond Spanish, there’s not a lot to choose from. Speech-language assessments with interpreters will be largely (or entirely) based on informal information.
Here are some of the assessment approaches I prepare my interpreter for:
- Gathering a language sample with a wordless picture book
- Story comprehension questions
- Conversation/Personal Narratives
- Play interactions with younger children
And I also look for measures in the child’s native language.
- The Charles Sturt University site has a list of assessment measures in many, many language.
- Core Word Lists can also come in handy for assessing speech sounds and understanding phonotactic constraints.
5. Brief the Interpreter
Different interpreters will have different knowledge about the field of speech-language pathology. For those unfamiliar with our field, I typically start with the basics, using images like these to talk about the broad view of our field.
Next, I review the materials I want to use during the testing. This gives them an opportunity to see the vocabulary that will be needed. Some of our materials include words like chipmunk and deer, that may not be words your interpreter will know in their native language. Giving them time to review the materials to prepare for the speech-language evaluation will make it go a lot more smoothly.
6. Conduct The Evaluation
A speech-language evaluation with an interpreter can be conducted in a number of different ways. You can conduct the evaluation in English and have the interpreter immediately interpret each item in the child’s native language. You can prepare the interpreter to administer test items directly in the native language while you observe the interactions between the interpreter and the client. This is best when the client has had very limited exposure to English. You can also administer items in English and then select a subset of items missed to re-administer in English. Another approach is that you could spend half of the session testing in English and half in the other language. The approach you take will depend on the level of proficiency the client has in each language.
After conducting a speech-language evaluation with an interpreter, it’s time for the debriefing. This is when you sit down with your interpreter and review the responses the client gave on the items. You will work together with the information you have about English and the client’s native language to make decisions about whether the patterns the client produced are due to influence from one language to another, or whether they are due to an speech or language disorder.
You can see videos of the debriefing and other parts of this process in the recorded version of Evaluating Students Who Speak a Language You Don’t inside of SLP Impact.