According to Gagiano and Southwood (2015) sentence repetition and digit repetition can be used to screen for language impairment in South African five-year-old children who speak Afrikaans or English as a first language, with sentence repetition being more sensitive to language impairment than digit repetition.

The children included in the study were from private or Quintile 5 schools or from pre-schools in the same neighbourhoods, suggesting that they were from mid- to high-income groups. As mentioned in the article though, there are indications that sentence repetition is not much affected by socio-economic status (SES), unlike many other language assessment tools. For this reason, it seems likely that this screening tool might be suitable for children with low SES, too.

After careful consideration of the linguistic aspects of the repetition items, and after testing five Afrikaans- and five English-speaking children with language impairment, and 20 Afrikaans-speaking and 20  English-speaking typically developing children, the study found that certain sentences and number sequences distinguished the typically developing children from the children with language impairment. The authors suggested that these could be included in a screening instrument. They were the following:

Afrikaans sentences:

  • “Sy het die pan op die stoof gesit.”
  • “Die meisie wil nie die pynappel eet nie.”
  • “Die seun het nie in die karavaan geklim nie.”
  • “Die boek is na die kantoor geneem.”
  • “Die kat word in die groot huis gejaag.”
  • “Wie het hy by die skool gesien?”
  • “Die meisie sal die brode kan bak.”
  • “Die katte word deur die honde gejaag.”
  • “Die kind sal ‘n roomys kry as hy die speelgoed wegpak.”
  • “Hy het planne gemaak om die huis te verf.”

Afrikaans number sequences:

  • “drie – nege – een”
  • “agt – sewentien – nege”
  • “agt – drie – vyf – twee”
  • “nege – sewe – twee – vyf”
  • “sewentien – drie – nege – twee”

English sentences:

  • “The kitten is chasing the rat up and down.”
  • “She can bring the glass to the table.”
  • “The books were taken to the office.”
  • “Who did the monkey splash near the water?”
  • “The policeman has been looking at us.”
  • “We shouldn’t have been picking the flowers.”
  • “She was seen by the doctor in the morning.”
  • “He will feed the cow before he waters the plants.”

English number sequences:

  • “twenty seven – three – thirteen”
  • “seventeen – three – thirteen – two”

The authors pointed out that the sample size was small and that only a narrow age range was tested. They suggested that further investigation should be done into wider age ranges, with other languages and with larger sample sizes.

Reference: Gagiano, S. & Southwood, F. (2015). The use of digit and sentence repetition in the identification of language impairment: The case of child speakers of Afrikaans and South African English. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics, 44, 37-60.