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The Bilingual Early Language Assessment, the BELA, is an assessment instrument to be used with bilingual children from 2.9 to 5 years old. It is administered one-on-one in the child’s home language and in English. It is presently available from this website in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Bangla, and Chinese. Translation into other languages is encouraged.

The distinctive features of the BELA are the following:

  • It is designed to be administered by home visitors or other professionals either with the caretaker present or in any other socially familiar situation, so the child will feel more comfortable during the assessment.

  • It is designed so that concrete materials are used during the tasks, so the child is operating with familiar objects or with illustrations.

  • It is designed to assess the child’s knowledge of basic concepts like body parts, colors, and numbers, as well as the child’s linguistic ability.

  • It is designed to be administered both in the child’s home language and in English, so it will be possible to ascertain whether a child is having difficulty with a concept (i.e. which shape is a square) or with the vocabulary item (“square” in English).

  • It is designed to be used more than once, so that a child’s developing competencies can be assessed and home visitors and other professionals can use the assessment information to inform their work with the child.


These particular features make the BELA a highly appropriate assessment instrument for young second language learners.

Here's what you will need to administer the BELA:

  Print materials:
  • Administration manual
  • BELA instrument in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Bagla,      or Chinese
  • Illustration booklet
  • BELA score sheets
  • BELA dual language record
  • Home Language and Literacy Interviews in English, Spanish, Portuguese,      Haitian Creole, Arabic, Bangla, or Chinese

  Toolkit:
  • Toolkit of objects that you will create yourself

In addition, there is a training DVD which is available free of charge by emailing Dr. Cornelia Heise-Baigorria at heise-baigorria@post.harvard.edu

Instructions for assembling the materials and toolkit are available on this website.