On determining what counts while counting: Aspects of language testing where diversity is the standard

  • Christine Anthonissen


This article takes an interest in language testing where the tests are set to serve two purposes: (i) to decide whether the test taker is sufficiently proficient in the language of learning at a higher education institution to advise admission to a study programme at the institution, and (ii) to inform the development of language support programmes aimed at improving the academic literacy skills of students learning through medium of a second language at such an education institution.  Examples of student work illustrate the kinds of concerns language teachers and testers have to deal with. Second language speakers of the language of learning at higher education institutions, and how they perceive their own proficiencies, are in focus. Positive self-assessment is often at odds with the scores achieved in academic work. Tests developed to gauge the test taker’s performance in tasks typical of the academic discourses s/he will encounter in higher education programmes, often show up difficulties that are not calculated in the planning of curricula or of classroom practices. Reference is made to recent research done in multilingual communities elsewhere, that may inform local teaching, testing, curriculum development and research.

Author Biography

Christine Anthonissen
Christine Antonissen is the head of the Department of General Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch.  Her research interests include Critical Discourse Analisys, Pragmatics and Sociolinguistics.