College of Liberal Arts

Feb 10, 2010 Round-Up: Language Proficiency & Testing

Wed, Feb 10, 2010

This week's round-up focuses on some of the current language proficiency debates in education, particularly why American students appear to be performing more poorly today than in years past.

Also included is a commentary series from The New York Times in response to an article "on the rise of Chinese-language instruction in American schools."

  • Room for Debate: Will Americans Really Learn Chinese? (The New York Times)
    "There’s a long tradition of bemoaning Americans' inadequacy in foreign languages. But what specifically should the nation do to improve its citizens' knowledge of other languages? What are the impediments?" Seven contributors discuss the issue from a variety of intellectual perspectives.
  • Foreign language education helps students to not get lost in translation (BG News, Bowling Green University)
    "Many students have difficulty learning a foreign language in college, but imagine going to a university where all the classes are taught in a foreign language." At Bowling Green, "there are several international students who come to the United States to get an undergraduate or graduate degree but speak little to no English. This is where the Bowling Green Language Institute steps in to help, with the English as a Second Language Program (ESL)."
  • On Language: The Keypad Solution (The New York Times Magazine)
    "There is a long and noble history of trying to change the English language’s notoriously illogical system of spelling. [...] And so it is rather bizarre that the first widespread change in how people spell English words appears to have come from a group of (largely) young people sending text messages to one another with cellular phones and other electronic devices. "
  • Students failing because of Twitter, texting and no grammar teaching (The Canadian Press)
    "Little or no grammar teaching, cellphone texting, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, all are being blamed for an increasingly unacceptable number of post-secondary students who can't write properly."
  • Students failing language exams (McGill Tribune, Students' Society of McGill University)
    "The University of Waterloo is one of the few institutions in Canada to administer a language proficiency exam as a degree requirement. Although the university has used the test since 1976, students' writing problems just appear to be getting worse." Article looks at potential causes of a 30% failure rate on the basic proficiency exam.

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