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S Afr J Commun Disord. 2012 Dec;59:34-44.

Speech-language assessment in a linguistically diverse setting: preliminary exploration of the possible impact of informal 'solutions' within the South African context.

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  • 1Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.


Speech-language therapists (SLTs) working in the context of cultural and linguistic diversity face considerable challenges in providing equitable services to all clients. This is complicated by the fact that the majority ofSLTs in South Africa are English or Afrikaans speakers, while the majority of the population have a home language other than English/Afrikaans. Consequently, SLTs are often forced to call on untrained personnel to act as interpreters or translators, and to utilise informally translated materials in the assessment and management of clients with communication impairments. However, variations in translation have the potential to considerably alter intervention plans. This study explored whether the linguistic complexity conveyed in translation of the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) test changed when translated from English to isiZulu by five different first-language IsiZulu speakers. A qualitative comparative research design was adopted and results were analysed using comparative data analysis. Results revealed notable differences in the translations, with most differences relating to vocabulary and semantics. This finding holds clinical implications for the use of informal translators as well as for the utilisation of translated material in the provision of speech-language therapy services in multilingual contexts. This study highlights the need for cautious use of translators and/or translated materials that are not appropriately and systematically adapted for local usage. Further recommendations include a call for intensified efforts in the transformation of the profession within the country, specifically by attracting greater numbers of students who are fluent in African languages.

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