The Receptive Vocabulary Screener (RVS) is a tablet application which can screen receptive vocabulary in English and (so far) ten other languages (including Polish, Czech, Slovak, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, German, Turkish, Punjabi, Urdu, and Welsh). We call it a screening because the app includes only 20 nouns and 20 verbs, which is a small number considering how many words children are able to understand. Nevertheless, such a screening provides a first insight into how well children are able to store words. This helps us to decide whether children speaking one of those languages may have difficulties with storing and understanding words.
Why did we design the RVS?
We live in a multicultural and multilingual world. In 2015 the Department of Education reported that over 19% of primary school children in the UK learn English as an additional language. A considerable number of those children need support in learning English to be able to follow instructions in school and to learn new things in and outside school. A subgroup of those children struggle to learn their home language as well and need targeted intervention by speech and language therapists.
In order to identify a child’s specific language learning needs, multilingual children should be assessed in all the languages they speak. However, there are huge challenges: in UK classrooms over 360 different languages can be found and for most of those languages we haven’t got any assessments available. In addition, most of us who work with multilingual children are not proficient in any of those languages. This makes it very difficult to identify who needs additional support and who does not. Therefore, we decided to design a vocabulary screening which can be administered in a range of languages without the testers having to be proficient in those languages.