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Narrative Transcription Accuracy and Reliability in Two Languages

Heilmann, John PhD; Miller, Jon F. PhD; Iglesias, Aquiles PhD; Fabiano-Smith, Leah PhD; Nockerts, Ann MS; Andriacchi, Karen Digney MS

doi: 10.1097/01.TLD.0000318937.39301.76

Recent research documents the power of oral narrative language samples to predict reading achievement in both Spanish and English in English language learners (ELLs; J. Miller et al., 2006). To document their clinical utility, this article addresses issues of accuracy and reliability for transcription and analysis of oral narratives elicited from Spanish–English bilingual children. We first reviewed the unique considerations that must be made when transcribing narratives elicited from ELLs. To demonstrate that narrative transcription is clinically feasible, we documented that a single clinician can accurately transcribe children's oral narratives and that the measures acquired from these samples are reliable. Forty oral narratives were first transcribed by a single transcriber, and then checked and retranscribed by additional transcribers. High levels of accuracy and agreement between transcribers were observed across both the English and the Spanish transcripts. Test–retest reliability was documented for 241 transcripts produced by the ELL children. Significant correlations were observed between Time 1 and Time 2 for 4 narrative measures. These data demonstrate that oral narrative data from ELL children can be accurately transcribed and the narrative measures are stable over time, providing the research foundation for clinical use of narrative language samples.

From the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC (Dr Heilmann); the Department of Communicative Disorders, University of Wisconsin—Madison (Dr Miller and Mss Nockerts and Andriacchi); the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Iglesias); and the Center for Research in Language, University of California, San Diego (Dr Fabiano-Smith).

Corresponding author: John Heilmann, PhD, College of Allied Health Sciences, East Carolina University, Health Sciences Bldg–CSDI, Greenville, NC 27858 (e-mail:

This research has been supported in part by grants HD39521, Oracy/Literacy Development of Spanish-speaking Children, and R305U010001, Biological and Behavioral Variation in the Language Development of Spanish-speaking Children, awarded to David Francis as the primary investigator and Jon F. Miller and Aquiles Iglesias as coprimary investigators. Both grants are jointly funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Additional funding for the first author was provided by NIH 5 T32 DC005459, Interdisciplinary Research Training in Speech–Language Disorders.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins