Adapting MAIN to isiZulu – some reflections on ecological validity
The Multilingual Assessment Instrument for Narratives (MAIN) was developed as an instrument to assess the narrative skills of children in multilingual and multicultural contexts. The aim was to compile an instrument that is ecologically valid and culturally neutral so it can be used to assess children’s narrative skills regardless of their linguistic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. While storytelling occurs in all communities and cultures, storytelling customs may differ from culture to culture. For example, African storytelling is based on oral traditions passed on from one generation to the next. In the Zulu culture, which has a very rich anthology of folktales and oral traditions, stories are often used to teach moral lessons. This paper reflects on the possible challenges that clinicians may encounter when using MAIN to assess young children who may have only been exposed to traditional Zulu folklore stories that differ in structure from the MAIN stories. We also consider the Southern African Story Grammar model that was proposed by Tappe (2018) as a better reflection of African storytelling than the classical Stein and Glenn (1979) story grammar model. We discuss how some aspects of the MAIN stories and assessment procedures may not resemble the typical stories or storytelling customs in traditional isiZulu-speaking populations and therefore compromise the ecological validity of MAIN. In this paper, our focus is on isiZulu, but our questions about the ecological validity of MAIN may also be relevant for other language groups and cultures in the growing international community of MAIN users.