Development of a test of speaking proficiency in multiple languages
India C. Plough, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, Michigan State University
Volume 3, Issue 2, 2014
Abstract: The Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) at Michigan State University has a foreign language proficiency graduation requirement. The RCAH has found it necessary to revise its language proficiency program and to develop a local test of language proficiency in lieu of using existing, internationally-recognised assessments of speaking proficiency. Situated within Critical Language Testing (Shohamy, 2001a, 2001b), the paper presents motivations for this decision reached after a yearlong program review. Treating the processes of teaching, learning, and assessment as interdependent, the RCAH’s new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum program and the new performance-based proficiency test are built on the same methodological principles. Grounded in a social interactional theory of second language acquisition and assessment, the RCAH Test employs a paired format and is intended to assess intermediate speaking proficiency in the more commonly taught and the less commonly taught languages. Initial trials have been conducted with native speakers of English, and native and non-native speakers of French, German, and Spanish. Using discourse analytic methods, preliminary analyses highlight the potential influence of sociocultural context and bring into question the importance of syntactic complexity in the conceptualisation of speaking proficiency.
Keywords: speaking proficiency, cultures and languages across the curriculum