In 2014 Mirjam Blumenthal and Liesbeth van der Zijden began working on a concept for a novel speech assessment tool inspired by an existing informal test. With their colleagues at Royal Dutch Kentalis, they developed a screening tool to examine the speech development of multilingual children in their mother tongue.
What was your inspiration for Speakaboo?
While working at a local Audiological Center we noticed that for multilingual assessment it was frequently necessary to involve outside interpreters. Therapists don't always speak the patient's mother tongue. Analyzing spontaneous speech is time-consuming, costly and you can never be certain if the collected speech sample contains all the information you're looking for. We decided to make a device that would improve this process.
What was your starting point for creating this device?
We first looked at how frequently therapists required the help of interpreters, and what languages were commonly requested. Based on this information, we created a short list of languages that would be most useful for therapists in the Netherlands. In our initial selection, we excluded some languages, Mandarin Chinese for instance. Our lack of experience in working with tonal languages makes it too high a challenge for the starting phase of our project.
How did you select the target-words for Speakaboo?
For every language, we created a different set of words. Each compilation had to include all
Speakaboo tests are limited to an average of thirty words per list. Why this number?
When kids visit an Audiological Centre they engage in a whole range of tests. This can be tiring, particularly for young children with a short attention span. The thirty words translate
How did you select the matching photos?
We would make the first selection based on our judgments. Next, we would evaluate the images with native speakers which often lead to changes. For instance, to represent the word 'woman' we once picked a photo of a young adult female. When we presented the picture to Somali individuals, the testers described the female as a girl. Consequently, to draw out the correct word during a test we had to replace the original picture with one of an older lady.
How do you handle dialectical differences?
We aim to create lists minimally affected by language variations. With words that either stay the same or demonstrate only minimal differences in dialects. If you look at the
In your experience, how does the game component of Speakaboo affect the assessment?
We see that animations and interactive elements in a game help raise a child's level of engagement during a test. Often, Speakaboo
The underlying functionality of the program is another advantage for the therapist: it allows them to record per item, and later listen to and score a child's performance. This way they acquire a clear overview of the results. It also enables them to compare the speech of a young child with that of a pre-recorded interpreter.
An unexpected outcome is that parents who didn’t seem to understand what the assessment is all about, understand it better with the use of Speakaboo. A problem we have encountered in Audiological
What comes next?
All our ideas will be put to the test during the coming months, starting with the upcoming beta. It will be our first occasion to test Speakaboo with a wider public. We are looking forward to seeing the application work in practice