Tuesday, October 04, 2005


This was in an Indian Newspaper today

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) has just included a new speaking component which may deter Asians who are well-versed in “textbook English’’ but not in spoken English.

This additional component will add the greatest strain on students from smaller towns. Some of these students have a great technical background, good math skills and are very hard working. Spoken English does not come very easily to them. But if accepted to a US University they can pick up this element within a few months. The article mentioned that the listening section will now have an American accent to simulate more real life experience. The ear takes a while to get accustomed to accents. TOEFL basically turns into an exercise of reading, listening and speaking a standardized Americanized English. There are certain advantages to this approach. International students are tested on this level and those who succeed will have an easier time when in the US. But a standardized approach also doesn't allow the language to grow. Any language that does not evolve dies after a certain amount time. International students with their different flavors of English bring something new to the University when they decide to come to the US for a higher education.

1 comment:

joel said...

Meh, the thing to remember is that all non-native english speakers will be tested against this standard, so if it really is harder than before then it will be harder for everybody. And about everyone learning it within a few months, that may be generally true, but not universally true. Maybe the point of this exercise is to weed out those people that probably will really get spoken english that well. For example I had a Japanese TA that was phenomenal at English, he was just short of native capability even though he came to America as a college freshmen with little skill at english. On the other hand I had a boss once from Japan that had been in the U.S. for a couple of decades and I couldn't understand a word she said. So maybe that's what they're trying to test for. Now, whether or not this kind of test is any kind of gauge of future performance is an entirely different matter.