Language Testing Issues
I. Lobo from Colombia
I. Lobo is an English Language Instructor at the
in Barranquilla, Colombia. He is presently a
doctoral student at the Teaching English as a Second
Language (TESOL) Graduate Program
at the University of Cincinnati.
Many years ago when I started to learn this
beautiful language, I thought that the only thing I
needed to acquire was sounds that make up words
that in turn make up sentences. I used to memorize
tons of lexicon, hundreds of sentences, and I still
remember a poem that reads:
is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
knows how much I loved those lines that still
resound in my mind. Indeed, I continued learning
other "elevated, art-related" materials, and I will
always think that they have helped me to make ends
meet in the English Speaking World.
many things get untold in foreign language classes.
Certainly not everything is form, sound, syntax,
and semantics. For example, as an international
student in the U.S., I didn't know that when asked
a question in oral English language interviews, I
needed to answer immediately even if I did not have
the right response in my mind.
these academic situations, what really matters is
to provide a personal, coherent, cohesive, and
appropriate discourse that should fit the discourse
of evaluators and administrators. This also may
apply to other non-academic contexts.
have come to understand that defining words, as
part of oral English proficiency tests is pretty
much culturally related. Americans and English
people define words very directly. The Webster
dictionary presents the definition of, for
instance, "scalars" as a disignating a quantity
that has magnitude but not direction in space, as
volume or temperature. This definition is pretty
clear and direct for native speakers of English.
Americans and British people would probably provide
examples to further clarify this term.
after interviewing Chinese students and colleagues,
I have discovered that when defining words, people
in China usually present examples to finally end up
defining the terms they wish to illustrate. Also,
Spanish speaking individuals like myself use a very
indirect approach for definitions, and we run the
risk of never completing what we wanted to say in
the very end.
would conclude that learning a second language for
academic as well as for other purposes needs to be
related to the host nation's cultural practices
that are reflected in schools, government
institutions, private companies, and so on and so
as a non-native speaker of English in the process
of learning it, I consider that second language
acquisitiion goes beyond the point of saying
"whatever", as an example. This expression is
determined by context, i.e., where s/he says it,
who says it, where s/he says it, how s/he says it,
when s/he says it, and to whom s/he says it, among
other possibilities. Indeed if words were gold,
then we could say that all that glitters is not
words because there is much more behind
©1997-2008 - Sandy and Thomas Peters -