Assessing language dominance in Mandarin-english bilinguals: Convergence and divergence between subjective and objective measures

Li Sheng, Ying Lu, Tamar H. Gollan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the convergence and divergence between subjective and objective measures of language proficiency for assessing language dominance in Mandarin-English bilinguals. Sixty-two young adults (Experiment 1) and 27 children (Experiment 2) provided self-ratings of proficiency level (or were rated by their parents), were interviewed for spoken proficiency, and named pictures in the Multilingual Naming Test (MINT) and (in Experiment 1 only) the Boston Naming Test. In Experiment 1, the four measures converged in the number of people classified into different dominance groups but both naming tests indicated greater English dominance than self-report and interview measures. In Experiment 2, parent report and interview measures converged in dominance classifications but the MINT indicated higher degrees of English dominance. To a large extent bilinguals were able to classify themselves (or their children) into dominance groups but some mismatches between measures in dominance classification were observed for all age and dominance groups. These results, together with previous findings with Spanish-English bilingual adults (Gollan et al., 2012), suggest that bilinguals may shift to English dominance in confrontation naming before they do so in conversational fluency, and that dominance shifts persist throughout the lifespan but may be relatively more pronounced in children. These findings caution against the use of self-reports as the sole means of classifying bilinguals into dominance groups and support a multi-measure approach including direct assessment of the relevant linguistic domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-383
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • English
  • language dominance
  • Mandarin
  • picture naming
  • proficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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