Inter-professional collaboration to create resources for children of the South Pacific

Suzanne C. Hopf, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

Background: Cultural and linguistic diversity provide unique environments that shape communication learning opportunities for children in South Pacific nations (e.g., Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu). However, we know very little about the acquisition of indigenous, or exogenous, languages of these nations. Much of the knowledge concerning children’s communication in the SP is held by communication specialists outside of the speech-language pathology field. Creation of tools to explore children’s language development is required.

Aim: To present a method for creating culturally and linguistically valid expert consensus functional word lists for languages of the South Pacific.

Method: Communication experts, including early childhood educators, in Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu were identified via literature search and referral from country contacts already known by the author due to her 10+ years of work in the South Pacific. The author conducted interviews with communication experts from linguistic, educational, and/or disability fields in each country between March and September 2019. Spontaneous word list generation activities were supplemented by review of existing vocabulary tools for other contexts. Experts collated word lists of between 15 and 100+ words that they believed were culturally valid across diverse geographical and linguistic contexts within the country of interest.

Results: Comparisons between expert lists were created and the top 50 items confirmed for each country.

Conclusions: Expertise from different fields of practice outside of speech-language pathology can be utilised effectively to support development of tools for communication specialists working with children in underserved regions of the world. Testing of these collaborative tools will be required to ensure their validity.

Implications for children: You know a lot, but sometimes you don’t always have the words you need in the language that your teacher or health care worker speak. With these 50 functional word lists, your teachers and health care workers will be able to see just how clever you are in the language that you speak best.

Implications for families: Determining if a multilingual Pacific Islander child has a language delay, disorder or difference is not always easy for experts to work out; especially when they don’t speak the same language as you and your child. These 50-functional word lists will give communication professionals somewhere to start when they conduct their language assessments with your child.

Implications for practitioners: Pacific Islander children are culturally and linguistically diverse. Many traditional assessment tools are culturally inappropriate for use with these children. The 50-Functional Word Lists generated through this project will provide you with a valuable tool for screening a Pacific Islander child’s speech production, receptive and expressive language.

Funding: QUOTA South Pacific Area Scholarship

Key words: South Pacific, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, children’s voices, linguistic multi-competence, speech screening, language screening.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: (delete the SDGs that are NOT relevant. Include at least one)