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Talking and Testing: Discourse approaches to the assessment of oral proficiency (Studies in Bilingualism) Paperback – July 15, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-1588110923 ISBN-10: 1588110923

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Bilingualism (Book 14)
  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company (July 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588110923
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588110923
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,867,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The book provides a description of LPIs that goes beyond the articulated objectives of the tests. It leads to a better understanding of LPIs as tests and texts. --Kathleen Bardovi-Harlig, Indiana University, in The Modern Language Journal

More About the Author

I'm a Professor in English Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I teach courses in Sociolinguistics, English Syntax, Language Acquisition, and Research Methods. I've also served as a director of the Program in English as a Second Language.

I was born and grew up in London and, after I graduated from Oxford with a degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, I taught in Italy and Hong Kong before settling in the United States in 1983. My Ph.D. is from the University of Pennsylvania and my dissertation was the first extension of quantitative variation theory to interlanguage. Since then, my abiding research passion has been to understand the relationship between the use of language and the social contexts that language reflects and creates. I've always seen that relationship as dynamic and reflexive, and my research has focused on change--how newcomers learn to participate in the practices of a new community. My fascination with the relationship between language and context has led me to do work that crosses conventional boundaries between academic fields. My work on discourse variation in oral proficiency interviews combined discourse analysis and language assessment and resulted in some of the earliest empirical discourse analyses of interactions designed to assess spoken English proficiency. In my most recent work I've been using insights from linguistic anthropology and conversation analysis to understand the architecture of face-to-face interaction and to develop the theory of discursive practice.

My research has resulted in four books: Variation in Interlanguage Morphology, Talking and Testing (co-edited with Agnes He), Language and Interaction, and Discursive Practice in Language Learning and Teaching. I've published over 50 articles in journals and anthologies and I serve on the editorial boards of three major journals.

I've held visiting professorships at Penn State, International Islamic University Malaysia, and at two universities in Germany. During 2005-6, I served as President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics and I chaired the World Congress of Applied Linguistics in Madison. Up until 2004, I served as a consultant to Educational Testing Service during the major redesign of the TOEFL test.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert & Sarah Brock on April 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A language proficiency interview (LPI) is where a person's speaking ability in a foreign language is assessed in a face-to-face interview with a native-level speaker. This book looks at how good a measure of speaking ability an LPI provides. It would primarily be useful to language testers, but would also be of interest to language teachers and researchers in second language acquisition. There are 14 papers by academic authors from a wide variety of disciplines. As there are no chapter summaries, the reader must plow through a lot of jargon to understand the issues and conclusions. Data are drawn from both native English speakers learning foreign languages and speakers of other languages studying English. The transripts show how difficult it is for testers to elicit and for students to produce a smooth flow of talk. Many of the contributors compare LPIs to natural conversation. Differences arise because the purpose of an LPI is to obtain a ratable sample of speech, not to hold a conversation: the tester largely controls the topics, who speaks and for how long. One author points out, however, that many interactions in English for non-native speakers also occur in interview-like situations. Some problems with LPIs are cultural. For example, in an interview in English the interviewees may provide short literal answers to questions because they do not realize that a question is an invitation to talk. In Korean, interviewees may not understand that spoken confirmation sequences, which would be unnecessary in English, help to establish the participants' status and power relationships. Two alternatives to LPIs are considered. One is the simulated oral proficiency interview, where students listen to and record their responses on tape.Read more ›
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