Spanish: A Language of Unparalleled Semantic Variation

A Friend’s Video on the Nuances of Spanish Language Difference Goes Viral In February of 2012, brothers Juan Andrés and Nicolás Ospina released a song titled “Que difícil es hablar el español” or “Oh How Hard it is to Speak Spanish” that quickly became viral.  Now with 8.5 million hits on YouTube, this song has Read more about Spanish: A Language of Unparalleled Semantic Variation[…]

When is a New Language Learner Ready for Standardized Testing?


It’s spring and while most of us anticipate the awakening of plant and animal life that the warmer weather brings, students all over the country also wait in anticipation for the challenge of standardized testing.  But just how prepared are new language learners when it comes to taking standardized tests?

I often refer back to this 12 minute short film when reflecting upon the abilities of bilingual students.  It serves as a reminder of how capable these students are, yet how often their abilities are overshadowed by language barriers. (Side note: This film is also really well done, in my humble opinion, which is also why I watch it so much)

Multiple factors must be considered to determine if a child’s language abilities in the new language are adequate for testing, but one researcher of language development helps to measure language ability in a simple way.   […]

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Building the Phonemic Awareness Skills of Multilingual Individuals



With more and more SLPs taking on the role of reading specialist in the school environment, important reading strategies must be reviewed with current evidenced based practice (EBP).  Additionally, multilingual clients bring a greater challenge to the SLP teaching phonemic awareness.   In fact, reading and writing can be more complex in English than in many other languages because English has a moderately complicated spelling system.  In Spanish, for example, the relationships between letters and sounds are typically 1:1, meaning each sound is usually written using one spelling unit, and each spelling unit is typically pronounced one way.  There are exceptions with a few letters like the “C,” which has a “soft c” and “hard c” distinction in both languages.


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Free Speech and Language Apps for Bilingual Kids!


Photo: Monki Shake It on


The following apps are FREE and fun to use with kids who are multilingual:

1. First Vehicles by Moo Moo Lab   



Ahoy! By land, by air or by sea, the First Vehicles free version offers six different vehicle options including a fire truck, police car, submarine, ship, dump truck and airplane.  Kids 1 and up can color the vehicles, pick the correct vehicle from a choice of 6 or solve a basic one-two piece puzzle.  Best of all, the vehicles are interactive and fun!  This app would work best for toddlers.

Upgrade: Love First Vehicles?  There are expansion packs.  Buy an additional 15 vehicles for $1.99 and 30 additional vehicles for $2.99.

Languages: English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish

Get it here.

2. Animal World by Moo Moo Lab

Photo: Moo Moo Lab Facebook Page

Photo: Moo Moo Lab Facebook Page

Elephants, Zebras and Peacocks, oh my!  Another great game for toddlers, Animal World features […]

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Bilingual Articulation Phonology Assessment (BAPA) Application: The First Standardized Speech Assessment App



I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to assess linguistically diverse individuals who may present with speech deficits. When it comes to standardized assessments, it can be tricky. Many individuals present with language difference that standardized assessments are not designed to detect.  As a result, many individuals who are culturally linguistically diverse appear to have deficits when in reality, they just communicate using different language productions.  Articulation assessments such as the Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation are excellent for detecting speech sound disorders among monolingual students; however, I often find that they are difficult to use when assessing Spanish-speaking individuals.

Enter the Bilingual Articulation Phonology Assessment or the BAPA for short. Developed by Smarty Ears Apps, this app is extremely easy to use and efficient for speech therapists who work with individuals who present with articulation and phonological difficulties.  While some may stand by the administration of standardized assessments on paper, over time with the support of empirical evidence, standardized assessment apps may just be the wave of the future for SLPs.

While looking into assessment apps, I immediately became intrigued by a demo provided by the developers.  Now that I finally received the app and am able to review it (see below), I hope that this will help other SLPs looking for new assessment tools for Spanish-speaking individuals.

The BAPA was developed by Barbara Fernandes, Ellen Kester, Mary Bauman, and Scott Prath, and published by Smarty Ears. The BAPA can be used with individuals of all age groups. It is compatible with the iPad running iOS 5.1 or above.


Dialectal Difference Tool – This app can be customized depending […]

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5 Bilingual Speech and Language Therapy Apps That Make Our Lives Easier



Many apps are on the market now for speech and language purposes, but some go even beyond that to cater to bilingual students.  A majority of these apps are for Spanish speakers only.  A complete list of apps for a variety of languages is currently being developed.  The following apps meet this need and make our lives a little easier:

1.  Adjetivos Remix – This app is a great tool to use for individuals who present with difficulty identifying and using adjectives!  Developed by bilingual speech therapists, this app also features various opportunities for customization.  For example, there is a settings tool where the app can be customized for colors, appearances or feelings.  The Spanish demo could not be found but the English version is included here and has the same user interface and design.

  • What I love about this app: The ideal feature that makes any speech therapist’s life easier is a progress monitoring feature.  The app features an opportunity to take data and then email the data to track progress.
  • Who this app is appropriate for:  As stated above, the intended users are individuals who present with difficulty identifying and using adjectives.  While this app would be especially great to use with children in a school setting, the fact that the app uses actual objects and not drawings makes it more age-appropriate for adolescents and adults who have language difficulties.  It’s also user-friendly so parents will probably enjoy it immensely as well and use it with their children.  The app is $9.99 on iTunes.  This app also has an English version, which is the same price and can be found here.
  • Available Languages/Dialects: English, Spanish

Get the Adjetivos Remix app here


2.  Bilingual Articulation Phonology Assessment (BAPA)  – Now this app is a whopping $84.99, and honestly for that reason I have not yet used it.  However, with that being said, it is a standardized assessment (which are usually much more expensive) and appears to be a notably credible assessment tool at that.  In fact, please watch the demo included here […]

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Communication Boards with Tips in Spanish

Many children are using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or communication boards at school across various environments.  Incorporating the system into the home environment is just as essential.  In addition, it will help get the family on board and maybe put to rest the ever-persistent myth that communication symbols impede speech development.

See here for evidence-based practice supporting the use of AAC for enhancing the development of speech:

Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and realities. Infants & Young Children, 18(3), 174-185.

Additionally, it is just as important to work with families who speak other languages, such as Spanish, by inviting them to participate in the improvement of communication.  One way to do this, is to introduce communication symbols into the home environment, in the home language.

Tips when introducing Spanish communication symbols into the home:

  1. It is beneficial for the SLP or classroom teacher to write the English translation on the opposite side of the symbol, before laminating it, as a reference if the person working with the child does not understand the home language. Some symbols may have the Spanish and English word written on the same side as the picture symbol.  For many students, this will be a great tool for use in school with monolingual staff and students, as well as at home.
  2. Not sure how to pronounce a word, or the meaning of the word? has both the translation and an option to hear the pronunciation.
  3. While some items are popular in Spanish-speaking households, this certainly does not hold true across different Latin American and Caribbean cultures.  For example, some countries in Latin America eat tamales but many do not eat them and it should not be assumed that they do.
  4. To avoid the situation mentioned in #3, write or call the child’s family.  If the SLP or teacher does not speak Spanish, send home a note asking about home life.  Food is an important cultural aspect and the preferred types of food consumed at home is valuable information.  Asking “¿Cual es su comida favorita en casa?” meaning “What is your favorite food at home?” in Spanish will open up the table for discussion, so to speak.

Direct links with communication symbols in Spanish:

  • Direct links (Boardmaker software is not needed) (core words, family members) […]

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Bilingual Students: Academic Testing and the English Language Learner

There is no doubt we are a society that does not take academic testing lightly. While there is some reform in progress, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 continues to ensure our students are tested for reading and math annually while in grades 3 through 8.  Beyond these years, students prepare for the SATs and ACTs which determine entry into competitive universities.  Let’s not forget the exams also determine if the students will receive scholarships to attend these schools, which for many, are crucial to pursue an education beyond high school.


If these tests were not difficult enough for the monolingual students and simultaneous bilingual students (acquired both languages at the same time) who were born in the United States, they are nearly impossible for many bilingual students who acquire English sequentially (after acquiring the home language).  It is projected that by the 2030s, 40% of the public school population in the United States will be bilingual.  Research indicates that the older the student, the more difficult it is to acquire the language in time to keep up with these strict testing requirements.  These tests are enough to cause stress to any child, let alone a child who is taking the time to acquire a new language.  And where did this child come from?  Does the child have a well-educated family and come from an excellent school?  While this may be the case, the child may have come from an unfortunate scenario such as a war-torn country, resulting in gaps in academic learning due to these unfortunate circumstances.  The move to the US may also have resulted in a gap in academics.



So how do we help as educators you ask?  The first step in determining the child’s abilities is to […]

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