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OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education
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Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education -- Language Evaluation Options for Study Abroad Students
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These are provided as examples.

  1. Professional language proficiency testing.
    The American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) provides professional ratings on a 9-point scale. They offer an oral proficiency test in all states, but only offer a writing proficiency test in about seven states.

  2. Cost per testing session 1 – (Students would need two sessions -- pre and post.)
    Oral: $134.
    Writing: $65.

    You can inquire about having someone who is ACTFL certified do an informal oral proficiency rating. They charge $40/50 per session or $80-100 per student. A formal rating costs more because one person tests live, a second person listens to the tape and also rates the student, and if there is a disagreement as to a rating, then a third person listens to the tape. With a formal rating they keep the tapes on file for years.

    Note: Aside from the cost, the tests are sufficiently sophisticated that students going abroad for short periods may not be able to demonstrate enough improvement to show a measurable gain using this rating system.

    ACTFL covers the following languages:
    Arabic, Cambodian, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Egyptian, English, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

    For more information, please go to: www.actfl.org and www.languagetesting.com/.

  3. Have students take a standardized exam pre and post program. 2

  4. Advanced Placement ® Exams are offered in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish. For more information, please go to: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/about.html.

    Brigham Young University offers Foreign Language Achievement Tests (FLATS).
    Tests are available by correspondence and cost $40. per test 3. FLATS are offered in 57 languages. The exams are designed to evaluate a student's ability in conjunction with the first three semesters of a language track. The exams are multiple choice and thus not designed to test writing skills. There is also no speaking component. Each test has a mix of grammar, listening, and reading comprehension questions. The tests are timed for 2.5 hours but don’t usually take that long, according to their contact person. Tests are mailed and must be proctored. The exact same test is given each time; they do not have multiple variants of the test. They are usually graded pass/fail, but BYU can mail a % correct score if it is requested. For more information, please go to: http://flats.byu.edu/flatsinfo.php.

    Your University’s Foreign Language Department may have a standardized placement test for incoming freshmen who have had some high school language instruction.

    Design a Specialized Vocabulary List. You may also be able to work with your foreign language faculty to translate a vocabulary list of 30-40 terms that are key in your field. You could design this list based on what students would need to master in the foreign language in order to discuss their work with non-English-speaking foreign professionals.

  5. Online language testing. OPE is funding several projects in International Research Studies to create online language instruction and testing. Perhaps the students could help beta test this online language testing software. If this is of interest, please check http://www.ed.gov/programs/iegpsirs/awards.html for ongoing projects.

  6. Collect data to find out if students who go abroad and return home are able to skip a level in your college’s language instruction series. Problem: this only works if the students intend to continue language instruction.

  7. Administer language self-assessment tests to students before and after their study abroad experience.

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The following are some examples of questions to get you started:

E1. How would you categorize your ability to speak/read/write the language of your host country today?

  1. I am almost equally comfortable in the language of my host country and English.
  2. I freely speak the language of my host country, regardless of topic. (Not necessarily flawlessly.)
  3. I freely speak the language of my host country when the topics are related to my specialty. (Not necessarily flawlessly.)
  4. I speak the language of my host country with some difficulty.
  5. I speak the language of my host country with great difficulty.
  6. I can’t speak the language of my host country at all.

E2. Do you expect to use the language of your host country in your professional life?

  1. No.
  2. Yes.
  3. Unsure

E3. Thinking about your future career, if a new and interesting project were proposed to you and it required you to carry on conversations with professionals in the language of your host country, would you most likely:

  1. Accept the project with no hesitation about your language ability.
  2. Accept the project with some hesitation about your language ability.
  3. Decline the project due to inadequate language ability.

E4. Thinking about your future career, if a new and interesting project were proposed to you and it required you to carry on a written correspondence with professionals in the language of your host country, would you most likely:

  1. Accept the project with no hesitation about your language ability.
  2. Accept the project with some hesitation about your language ability.
  3. Decline the project due to inadequate language ability.

E5. Thinking about your future career, if a new and interesting project were proposed to you and it required you to read a lot of technical documents in the language of your host country, would you most likely:

  1. Accept the project with no hesitation about your language ability.
  2. Accept the project with some hesitation about your language ability.
  3. Decline the project due to inadequate language ability.

E6. Thinking about your future career, if a new and interesting project were proposed to you and it required you to read a lot of non -technical material in the language of your host country, would you most likely:

  1. Accept the project with no hesitation about your language ability.
  2. Accept the project with some hesitation about your language ability.
  3. Decline the project due to inadequate language ability.

E7. Thinking about your future career, would a job be more desirable to you if it allowed frequent travel abroad?

  1. No, less desirable.
  2. Irrelevant to my decision.
  3. Yes, more desirable.

E8. Thinking about your future career, would a job be more desirable to you if it allowed you to use the language of your host country?

  1. No, less desirable.
  2. Irrelevant to my decision.
  3. Yes, more desirable.

E9. Thinking about your future career, would a job be more desirable to you if it allowed you to use your knowledge of the history, culture, society or politics of your host country?

  1. No, less desirable.
  2. Irrelevant to my decision.
  3. Yes, more desirable.

E10. Thinking about your future career, would a job be more desirable to you if it allowed you to use your knowledge of the international practice of your profession?

  1. No, less desirable.
  2. Irrelevant to my decision.
  3. Yes, more desirable.

1 These costs were accurate as of 10/1/2008.
2 These tests are becoming more common because there is a demand from home-schoolers.
3 These costs were accurate as of 10/1/2008.

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Last Modified: 06/25/2009