Testing young children's vocabulary? There's an app for that!


Young children are like sponges when it comes to learning new words. But is it possible to analyse just how much vocabulary even very young children already have?

Researchers at the Universities of Goettingen in Germany and Oslo in Norway think so. In fact they’ve developed an app, called Babylex, to do exactly that.

It’s something that can be particularly interesting for parents who want to know how their child’s language skills are developing.

The app, which is available free of charge for Android and iOS phones and devices, estimates the number of words a child knows. It also displays a percentage value that compares the child’s vocabulary with that of other children of the same age and gender.

It’s currently aimed at children aged 18 to 30 months who speak English, German or Norwegian. Other languages are to follow.

Two-minute tests with 25 words

The information is calculated using a two-minute test in which parents indicate which of 25 randomly selected and displayed words their child already understands and can say. If they wish, they can save the results on their smartphone to track their child’s development.

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Babylex works with the word database at Stanford University in the United States, which contains anonymous vocabulary data of thousands of children that parents have voluntarily collected and continue to collect using vocabulary questionnaires.

There are 400 to 600 words on the questionnaires – and parents are asked to indicate which ones their child already knows.

Faster than taking a vocabulary questionnaire

Based on the overlapping of the answers entered into the app and the answers from the database, Babylex will extrapolate the number of words that each child knows.

According to the researchers, tests have shown a high level of agreement between the app’s vocabulary estimates and the results of traditional vocabulary questionnaires.

However, the time required to enter the answers in the app was much less than the time required to complete the questionnaires. – dpa