What is the difference between Spanish dominance and Spanish proficiency?
The concept of dominance encompasses the subtle differences in levels of language exposure that lead to differences in communicative performance of children in the areas of semantic and morphosyntax tasks (Pena, E., Iglesias, A., Gutierrez-Clellen, V., Goldstein, B. & Bedore, L. 2013). Dominant bilingualism as defined by Wei, L., (2000) includes situations in which a bilingual has greater proficiency in one language and uses it significantly more than any other(s). Wei goes on to define language dominance as one language being stronger or preferred by the individual. In communication disorders, the most familiar use of language dominance is in its use in the evaluation of English language learners. Language proficiency, in contrast, is a concept that has its roots in its use to select the most effective language of instruction in education (Collier, 2004). The use of language proficiency in the study of communication disorders began with studies similar to Hest (1997) who discusses the relationship between language proficiency as a developmental progression and its influences on the types of self-repair during the process of learning English. If you have a sense that these terms are similar and are used interchangeably, you are correct. If you are convinced that the terms have different meanings you are also correct. Although these terms are used interchangeably, the term proficiency lends itself more to the dynamic state of language skills in relation to colleagues exposure, demand and identity and to differences across language areas, modalities and domains in a communication system. Language proficiency reinforces the notion that language knowledge and skills change in response to social and academic environments, and may offer a better way to convey different levels of language function in a variety of social interactions and academic performance in different subject areas. Understanding that a student’s language ability is variable across speakers and linguistic contexts has important implications for determining a best course of support for an English Language Learner or a bilingual student. To summarize, Spanish dominance refers to a greater proficiency or preference for the use of Spanish. Spanish proficiency, on the other hand, refers to a measured degree of facility with which a person uses Spanish with different speakers and in different social and educational contexts.
Collier, C. (2004). Separating Difference from Disability. Ferndale, WA, CrossCultural Developmental Education Services.
Gerken, K. C. (1978). Language dominance: A comparison of measures. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in the Schools, 9, 187-196. doi:10.1044/0161.0903.187
Pena, E., Iglesias, A., Gutierrez-Clellen, V., Goldstein, B. & Bedore, L. (2013). Development of a Bilingual Test for Spanish-English Children: A Long and Winding Road, ASHA Convention, Chicago, IL. Wei, L (2000). The Bilingualism Reader. NY: NY, Routledge.