Saturday, October 15, 2011

Government of Canada to change language test

In a bulletin posted yesterday, the Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration gave "notice requesting comments on a proposal to require applicants to furnish upfront evidence of language ability showing achievement of at least Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 in speaking and listening with their citizenship application." The intention seems reasonable: to change from a multiple choice print test to a test more directly assessing speaking and listening. The devil will, of course, be in the details.

They are considering as system in which "administrative guidelines would provide a list of preferred language tests which are correlated with the Canadian Language Benchmarks." The problem with this is that “the benchmarks (levels) have not been empirically validated to ensure the fit of each descriptor with its level” (Vandergrift, 2006). It's hard to find tests, then, that correlate with something that doesn't itself correlate well with different language levels. At least, though, the purpose of the CLBs was specifically to address the language needs of newcomers to Canada.

There have, however, been some recent changes to the CLBs, which are being presented at next week's TESL Ontario conference. I'm planning to attend those sessions, so maybe I'll have some good news.

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