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Self-ratings of spoken language dominance: A Multilingual Naming Test (MINT) and preliminary norms for young and aging Spanish–English bilinguals*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2011

Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego
Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego & San Diego State University
Universitat de Barcelona, Spain
Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego
Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego
Address for correspondence: Tamar H. Gollan, 9500 Gilman Drive, 0948, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0948,


This study investigated correspondence between different measures of bilingual language proficiency contrasting self-report, proficiency interview, and picture naming skills. Fifty-two young (Experiment 1) and 20 aging (Experiment 2) Spanish–English bilinguals provided self-ratings of proficiency level, were interviewed for spoken proficiency, and named pictures in a Multilingual Naming Test (MINT); in Experiment 1, the Boston Naming Test (BNT) was also used. Self-ratings, proficiency interview, and the MINT did not differ significantly in classifying bilinguals into language-dominance groups, but naming tests (especially the BNT) classified bilinguals as more English-dominant than other measures. Strong correlations were observed between measures of proficiency in each language and language-dominance, but not degree of balanced bilingualism (index scores). Depending on the measure, up to 60% of bilinguals scored best in their self-reported non-dominant language. The BNT distorted bilingual assessment by underestimating ability in Spanish. These results illustrate what self-ratings can and cannot provide, illustrate the pitfalls of testing bilinguals with measures designed for monolinguals, and invite a multi-measure goal-driven approach to classifying bilinguals into dominance groups.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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The authors thank Jeanine Treffers-Daller, Michael Daller, Liz Peña, Alexandra Dunn, two anonymous reviewers and the editorial staff at BLC for their feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by R01 grants (NIDCD 011492, NICHD050287 and NICHD 051030), and by a P50 (AG05131) from NIH/NIA. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


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