Fijian children’s speech acquisition

Holly McAlister, Suzanne Hopf, Sharynne McLeod

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: The ability to produce sounds in the languages spoken by family and community increases children’s communication participation. Learning to produce the speech sounds of a language (consonants, vowels and tones) is an important milestone for all children. For multilingual children, sounds in one language may influence the production of sounds in another. The population of Fiji speaks three official languages (Standard Fijian, Standard Hindi and English) and hundreds of other dialects and languages. The linguistic multi-competence of Fijian children has received limited research attention.
Aim: To investigate the acquisition of English consonants by multilingual school-aged Fijian children.
Method: English speech samples of 80 words were collected from 72 multilingual Fijian school students (32 in Year 1, 40 in Year 4). The transcribed samples were analysed to calculate the percentage of consonants produced correctly for two Fiji English dialects (Fijian Fiji English and Fiji Hindi Fiji English).
Results: The pattern of English consonant acquisition for these children was similar to that reported for English-speaking children in other parts of the world. Minor differences for later developing sounds were noted (e.g., ‘th’ was produced as ‘t’ or ‘f’). There was evidence of cross-linguistic transfer.
Conclusions: This study expands understanding of linguistic multi-competence and multilingual speech sound acquisition and supports educators and communication specialists (e.g., speech-language pathologists) working with multilingual Fijian children.
Implications for children: Did you know that different languages have some sounds that are the same and some sounds that are different? Children are very clever at learning the sounds of different languages.
Implications for families: Children are capable of learning to speak many languages and their pattern of learning to pronounce consonants is similar across the world.
Implications for practitioners: When supporting multilingual children, it’s important to determine which languages and which specific dialects are spoken by the child and their family members. You should incorporate home language models when assessing children’s communicative competence.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
EventEarly Childhood Voices Conference 2020 - online, Bathurst, Australia
Duration: 16 Nov 202020 Nov 2020 (presentations on Youtube)


ConferenceEarly Childhood Voices Conference 2020
OtherThe Early Childhood Voices Conference (ECV2020) is a multidisciplinary international conference providing a platform to share research about innovative methods, theories and partnerships with children, families and practitioners that supports social justice during early childhood or within the early childhood sector.

ECV2020 is organised by the Charles Sturt University Early Childhood Research Group, and is an opportunity to present research in a virtual online space. 2020 has been a challenging year, and COVID-19 has altered the way in which we do many things, including research. Many conferences have been cancelled or postponed. ECV2020 provides researchers with the opportunity to present work that they been unable to present in other forums, research that they have been working on during the year, and/or work that responds to challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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