Developing the Little Kids’ Word List app, a fair assessment tool of communicative development for young Aboriginal children in multilingual families in Central Australia
Carmel O’Shannessy, Australian National University, Vanessa Davis, Australian National University / Tangentyere Council, Jessie Bartlett, Red Dust Role Models, Alice Nelson, Red Dust Role Models & Denise Foster, Tangentyere Council
Volume 12, Issue 2, 2023
Abstract: Assessment of the language development of Aboriginal children in Central Australia is a major challenge, because little is known about the children’s language repertoires and paths of development. The Central Australian language context presents a specific challenge for describing what young children are learning and for developing an appropriate vocabulary assessment tool. National Indigenous policies now have a focus on young children’s development, and existing monolingual English language assessment tools are bound to be inaccurate and unfair, either under-reporting knowledge that is present, or under-reporting difficulties children may have. In response, a multilingual ‘spoken’ MacArthur Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) app, the Little Kids' Word List, has been developed for four of the languages spoken by young children in Central Australia: Eastern & Central Arrernte, Western Arrarnta, Warlpiri and English, and another two languages are being added. The Little Kids’ Word List app has been intentionally designed for fairer language assessments of the speech production and comprehension of young Indigenous children in Central Australia. The development processes explored the complex linguistic contexts, multilingual repertoires and cultural practices of the children’s families. This is reflected in the content and design of the app, making it appropriate for these young Aboriginal children developing their languages knowledge. In contrast to a monolingual English-based tool developed in different cultural settings, the Little Kids’ Word List app can make visible the Central Australian cohort's languages strengths and knowledge base.
Key words: vocabulary, Indigenous, Warlpiri, Arrernte, Communicative Development Inventory