Today a majority of children grow up multilingually, because of the many demographic changes. In Austria, German is the official language needed for the daily life and for education. Nevertheless, about 60% of children attending kindergarten in Vienna acquire another first language (L1) [1
]. These children often underperform in their second language (L2) Austrian German with regard to the expectations of professionals, like teachers, psychologists, pediatricians and others. This observed lower L2 proficiency compared to monolingual children often leads them to take a developmental language disorder (DLD) into consideration because the first stages of L2 acquisition can resemble the patterns observed in impaired monolingual language development [2
]. There is currently a lack of language tests with norms for bilingual children, because most of the available language tests are normed for monolingual children with the aim to distinguish between typical and atypical language development. Nonword repetition tests (NWRT) are an alternative for language tests with bilingual children, because they can also be used with children who have limited exposure to a given language. In NWRT, children are asked to repeat nonwords containing one or more syllables that they have not heard before and therefore they cannot be part of their learned vocabulary. As a consequence, bilingual children with limited exposure to a language are less disadvantaged as in other language tests compared to monolingual children of the same language [4
]. NWRTs directly evaluate language proficiency at the phonetic–phonological level, specifically phonological working memory, speech perception and short-term memory and indirectly give insight into phonological awareness, word learning, and overall language acquisition. Therefore, NWRTs have proven to be valuable tools for diagnosing DLD together with other tests like sentence repetition and a parent questionnaire on acquisition of the first language [5
]. However, there are still open questions regarding the link between NWRT performance and language development in typically developed children. While NWRT, unlike other language assessments, do not draw directly on knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, it is still influenced by language-specific knowledge, mainly phonology and phonotactics. There is evidence that children are better able to repeat nonwords, which share phonological characteristics of real words in their language. Since such knowledge relies on language exposure, bilingual children should vary in their nonword repetition performance depending on familiarity with lexical phonology of the language on which the nonwords are based upon [4
, p. 126]. Up to now in the literature different results have been reported: some studies did not find effects of language exposure on bilingual children’s NWR performance (e.g., [7
]), while other studies found a correlation between NWR performance and language exposure [10
]. NWR performance was shown to be significantly predicted by language proficiency, specifically by receptive and expressive vocabulary in typically developed children [12
]. In a more recent study [13
], the significant correlation between (passive) vocabulary and NWR proficiency was again confirmed, whereas a significant correlation between NWR proficiency and language exposure or maternal education could not be found. The authors suggest that NWR performance is an indicator of language proficiency independent of lingual and socioeconomic status.
Thus, it remains an open question whether the amount of language exposure influences not only the development of the stronger and weaker language but also performance in language-specific NWR.