Measuring human language proficiency

R. A. Stegemann moogoonghwa at
Mon Nov 1 05:05:04 UTC 2004


Thank you for the bibliographical references. I will attempt to explore 
them in some detail, as I am very interested in finding a way to 
demonstrate that East Asian UEL requirements are wasteful and not 
achieving their stated goals. Certainly these are very deeply felt 
notions about the reality of East Asia, as I have experienced it. 
Nevertheless, however well I support these notions with empirical 
inference and discursive logic, they are ultimately received as opinion 
that move contrary to collectively held belief that is constantly 
reaffirmed by eschewing the assumptions or scientific investigation 
that never seems to ask the right questions. By demonstrating that 
significant 2nd language attrition is taking place among post-secondary 
citizens, I believe that I can at least start the ball rolling.

When you state that "language scales have not been validated", I am not 
entirely sure what you mean. For example, when the Hong Kong government 
found it necessary to select a standard scale for measuring English 
language proficiency among Hong Kong secondary students, they selected 
their own domestically developed HKCEE English language syllabus over 
the IELTS. My response was straightforward, "What is it that you want 
to measure? Hong Kongers ability to communicate in English with the 
outside world, or how effective is the Hong Kong educational system at 
transmitting recycled HK English?"


On 1 Nov 2004, at 04:35, Bernard Spolsky wrote:

> Briefly, no.  At more length, see Spolsky, Bernard. (1995). Measured 
> words: the development of objective language testing. Oxford: Oxford 
> University Press.
> For a programmatic explanation what would be involved in answering the 
> question, see  Bachman, Lyle G. (2004). Building and supporting a case 
> for test use. Paper presented at the Language Testing Research 
> Colloquium, Temecula CA.
> "Fairly good idea" is not the same as accurate measure. 
>  The belief in a scale was strongly urged by Thorndike (and of course 
> it pragmatically adapted by bureaucrats), but language scales have not 
> been validated.
> Plurilingual proficiency, as the Common European Framework (Council of 
> Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: 
> learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 
> makes clear is a high complex matter, with variation on a great number 
> of dimensions.  While it does suggest a scale, it certainly does not 
> try to define a point at which someone is bilingual.
> Bernard
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