As the population of Spanish-English bilingual children in the United States steadily grows, the importance of accurately assessing and diagnosing developmental language disorder (DLD) has also grown. Understanding a child's underlying language learning system is critical in this process. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of nonword repetition (NWR) tasks in bilingual children across a wide range of development, however there is little information regarding guidelines for interpretation of NWR performance or analyzing error patterns. This study was conducted to address these gaps in the research. A sample of 26 Spanish-English bilingual school aged children (6;0-9;4) were administered English and Spanish NWR, recalling sentences, and narrative tasks. Total errors, as well as errors of omission and substitution were examined across tasks, languages, and language group (typically developing-TD and developmental language disorder- DLD). Descriptive statistics revealed that DLD children made a higher number of errors across language tasks in Spanish and English than their TD peers. Group membership predicted total errors in the Spanish NWR task while controlling for age and language proficiency. Language proficiency was not a significant predictor for any of the error types above and beyond group membership. Therefore, when age and language input/output were controlled for, language ability was best predictor of the number of errors. Additionally, results showed stronger correlations between Spanish across all three language tasks in TD children and in English across two language tasks in DLD children. According to the results of the current study, total errors is the only effective error measure of language ability. However, looking at error patterns across language and language group can be informative regarding bilingual children's language learning systems. Future research should be conducted to repeat the study with a larger sample size and investigate the difference in error patterns between languages in TD and DLD children.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





nonword repetition tasks, bilingual, developmental language disorder, omission errors, substitution errors, grammatical errors