Monthly Archives: February 2015

Designs for Symbols and Arabic Core vocabulary.

Over the past month a further 20 therapists with 13 Arabic speakers voted on the first batch of symbols with Tullah reporting that there was a preference for colour versions of male and female images for verbs rather than stick figures  (3 voted for stick figures and 17 for full image with colours). Tullah also felt that gender might play a role in the symbol choices,  as it appeared that the male attendees were more willing to accept stick figures in black and white.  This area needs more research!   Does the gender of the therapist impact on the choice of symbol they may make for their AAC users?  

When it came to discussing the clothing concerns there was a general consensus that there should be a range of dress with options for traditional styles as well as westerner clothing.  The final dictionary will provide access to all the ARASAAC symbols as well as the specially designed ones for Arabic culture so it is hoped that there will be sufficient choice.

Survey stick figure with Arabic modificationsBecause there have been some concerns about the way action symbols for verbs are portrayed and the type of clothing needed across all the symbols it was decided that we needed to increase the number of people involved in making these decisions so a survey is being sent out across several organisations with AAC users in the hope that we receive clear direction.

The  results from this survey and the final votes for Batch 1 of the newly designed symbols will be discussed in the next blog.   In the meantime a new collection of Arabic words lists have been gathered from the Awsaj Academy teachers, parents and speech therapists working with AAC users.


Core Vocabulary

During the year the team have kept up the discussion about core Arabic vocabularies.   According to the PrAActical Blog (author Carole Zangari) the recent ATIA 2015  conference

“served as validation that core vocabulary is now a widely accepted practice in supporting language development with AAC learners. Presentation after presentation discussed the rationale, research support, and strategies for implementation.”

Early on it was the aim to have a localised core vocabulary used by AAC users in Doha with a set of words that were based around a symbol vocabulary collected from therapists, teachers and parents in specialist schools and clinics.  The original list was largely based on an English core vocabulary taken from the  100 frequently used core words provided by Prentke Romich Company (PRC),  with a considerable number of fringe words – mainly nouns as can be seen from the most frequently used ones.

11 most commonly used words









Now an Arabic word list has been developed, built up thanks to collaboration with 8 Doha based institutions.   Description of data origins for Core vocab.  The AAC user lists contain around 1000 words and the initial analysis has shown an interesting set of frequently used Arabic words which still need more accurate analysis and checks against other lists.  The top 20 translated into English (with frequency in brackets) are at the moment:

I (16), car (13), ball (12), on (11), banana (11), to (10), he went (10), work (10), house (9), he sat (9), bicycle (9). clock/watch (9), in (9), chair (9), I want (8), aeroplane (8), pen (8), was (8), he played (8), flower / rose (8)

Arabic top 20 words



signing young in Arabic

Signing young in Arabic (taken from ‘ndictative dictionary’ provided by The Qatar Society for Rehabilitation of Special Needs)

We also have access to a list of words collected by the Qatar Society for Rehabilitation of Special Needs for those who are deaf or have hearing impairments and are using sign language in Qatar and we are beginning to collect words used when teaching Arabic to children and those wishing to speak Arabic as a second language.




It is felt that these three collections should be representative of the types of vocabulary needed as a basis for the dictionary.  The intention is to analyse the collections looking for similarities in the words used between the lists, frequency of use and comparisons with the English core vocabularies used at the start of the project.


Zangari, C. (2012).Helping the general education team support students who use AAC. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 21:82;91. (Accessed 22nd February, 2015

VanTatenhove, Gail M. (2013) Core Vocabulary with Emergent & Context-Dependent Communicators in Special Education Classrooms (Accessed 22nd February, 2015 )

VanTatenhove, Gail M. (2007 Normal Language Development, Generative Language & AAC (Accessed 22nd February, 2015 )

Symbol Manager changes to suit the needs of the voters

Feedback from participants involved  in the voting has resulted in some changes to the interface for the Symbol Manager.  There has been the introduction of a quick voting screen that removes the clutter causing problems and allows the user to see a large image of the symbol alongside the presentation of the criteria.

quick vote screen

There was also a discussion about the criteria as some felt it would be better to have the image showing without the symbol label but later several therapists asked for the label to be available in English, MSA and Qatari not just MSA. However, there may be slight differences in the translation and this will need to be discussed.

It was decided to stay with the closed-ended questions used to measure iconicity of each symbol and to keep the five point scale rather than the seven point scale mentioned by Evans et al (2006). The optimal length of the Likert scale is a complex subject and can affect the end result (Friedman and Amoo, 1999a).

In trying to keep the criteria scales as simple as possible it appears that one can re-scale results when comparing a seven point scale to a five point scale (Dawes, 2008) and it is even possible to have more clear cut decisions if a shorter scale is used (Foddy, 1993).  There was also the debate about having a mid-point where there is thought to be a tendency to choose 3 in the case of a 5 point Likert scale.  However Lietz (2008) points out that the research shows

“response without the middle. point had lower validity and higher random error
variance, indicating that people randomly chose other available response
options when the middle option was not available. This desirability of having
a neutral middle point to increase the reliability and validity of response
scales has also been confirmed by a meta-analysis of 87 experiments of
question design reported by Saris and Gallhofer (2007).”

The next set of voting results will come via the Quick Vote system which was piloted by Tullah with 20 therapists and teachers initially using paper based  versions of the system to discuss the best way forward as well as issues around the style of the symbols.  This will be discussed in the next report as Nawar has now made it possible for Symbol Manager to export voting data directly to Excel using Power Pivot. 


Dawes, J.(2008)  “Do data characteristics change according to the number of scale points used ? An experiment using 5 point, 7 point and 10 point scales”. International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 50, 1, 2008

Evans D, Bowick L, Johnson M, Blenkhorn P (2006) Using iconicity to evaluate symbol use. In: Proceedings of the 10th international conference on computers helping people. Linz, Austria, pp 874–881

Foddy, W. (1993). Constructing questions for interviews and questionnaires: Theory and practice. Melbourne: Cambridge University

Friedman, Hershey H. and Taiwo Amoo (1999a). “Rating the Rating Scales.” Journal of Marketing Management, 9 (Winter), 114-123.

Lietz, P. (2010). Research into questionnaire design – a summary of the literature. International Journal of Market Research, 52(2), 249-272.