Testing language skills and Language Elements

Language is a system for the expression of thoughts, feelings, etc., by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols. Linguists define...

Language is a system for the expression of thoughts, feelings, etc., by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols. Linguists define language as the communicative system in which a limited number of signals, sounds or letters (gestures) can be combined according to agreed-upon titles to produce an infinite number of messages. Any human language is powerful means of social communication and an essential tool of thought. CLS provides language skills assessment and testing for government contractors, government agencies, and private companies and organizations who must evaluate the language proficiency of current and potential employees. We also provide language testing for individuals interested in receiving graduate school study credit or who must meet specific proficiency levels for employment.The four-fold major language skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Testing of language skills
Language assessments can be conducted in person, by phone, or virtually through our distance learning platform. Language testing is a practice and study of evaluating the proficiency of an individual in using the particular language effectively. The main focus is the assessment of first, second or other language in the school, college or university context. The assessment may include listening, speaking, reading, writing an integration of two or more of these skills, or other constructs of language ability. Equal weight may be placed on knowledge (understanding how the language work theoretically) and proficiency (ability to use the language practically), or greater weight may be given to one aspect or the other.
There are four major categories of language testing and assessment that Language Testing International provides. Any company that offers a second language service must consider using these types of language tests in order to be a competitive employer, as companies typically offer extra incentives for second language skills.
The first element of language testing and assessment is the spoken test. Any company operating in a foreign country wants to make sure that their employees can effectively speak the language without major difficulty as well as being able to be completely understood. A spoken test measures not only how correct the test taker’s word choice is, but also their use of common vernacular, slang, and conversational tone and inflection.
The second element of language testing and assessment is the listening test. Just as you want your employee to be able to effectively speak in the second language, you will want them to be able to understand what is being said to them. As you likely know, this is absolutely vital in any area where your company has to communicate in a second language. A misunderstanding could prove detrimental to your company’s profits and future in a given country or community.
The third part of the language testing and assessment is the reading test. This is an option if you need your employees to be able to read any kind of written communication. This could be anything from asking them to read incoming correspondence and emails to reading local technical manuals or legal documents. As such, LTI’s second language reading test measures their ability to read and understand a variety of informational texts as well as pieces of narrative fiction.
Finally, LTI measures the subject’s ability to write effectively in the second language; this encompasses a wide selection of skills related to grammatical rules as well as rhetorical skill in the additional language.
Words
Those who wish to communicate using a language must know the meanings of a sufficient number of words for the purposes of the topic involved. Each word in a language has one (or often more than one) defined and agreed meaning.[4] Because of this, that word can be used for that meaning. Then, later, that meaning can be derived from that word.
Significantly, a word does not look, sound or feel like the thing it represents (though there are a few instances in which the sound of a word is at least compatible with its meaning). However, because the word's meaning is already known to both sender and receiver, this does not matter.
When a word has more than one meaning, or when the meaning itself is not very precise, the use of that word might cause a variable degree of ambiguity. However, as mentioned above, the context usually clarifies the meaning. In natural languages, the importance of context is enormous, because a word or phrase very often has more than one possible meaning.
Despite the possibility of having more than one meaning, a word is often more precise than other methods of representation, such as gestures or pictures. Further, because one word can represent quite a lot of meaning, the use of words can save time, increasing the efficiency of communication.
Yet another advantage is that, if it is subjected to deliberate processing in any reversible way, the meaning of each word will be preserved after that change has been reversed – which is often extremely convenient. The use of words therefore brings with it the benefits of precision, efficiency and convenience – though none of these qualities is invariable.
Testing of vocabulary
There are several possible purposes for giving a vocabulary test.  Perhaps the most common one is to find out if students have learned the words which were taught, or which they were expected to learn (achievement test).  Alternatively, a teacher may want to find where their students' vocabularies have gaps, so that specific attention can be given to those areas (diagnostic test).  Vocabulary tests can also be used to help place students in the proper class level (placement test).  Vocabulary tests which are part of commercial proficiency tests, such as the TOEFL (Educational Testing Service, 1987), attempt to provide a measure of a learner’s vocabulary size, which is believed to give an indication of overall language proficiency.  Other possibilities include utilizing tests as a means to motivate students to study, to show students their progress in learning new words, and to make selected words more salient by including them on a test

Perhaps the first decision to be made is whether to measure the size of a student’s vocabulary (breadth of knowledge) or test how well he knows individual words (depth of knowledge). ... In the classroom, vocabulary achievement tests usually try to measure how many words students know from the subset of words they studied. Different methods of vocabulary tests are:
1. Test of vocabulary size
Since most teachers are probably aware of several kinds of vocabulary achievement tests, the next two sections will give brief introductions to tests teachers are not likely to be familiar with.  This section presents three tests which measure vocabulary size, while the next section introduces three experimental tests which attempt to measure the depth of a student's vocabulary knowledge.

A frequently used  way of determining the total size of a person's vocabulary in L1 research studies has been to use dictionary method tests.  They involve systematically choosing words from a large dictionary, i.e. the 5th word from every tenth page.  These words are then fixed on a test.  The percentage of correct answers is then multiplied by the number of words in the dictionary to arrive at an estimate of  vocabulary size.  Unfortunately, this method has many problems, highlighted by widely varying estimates of native-speaker vocabulary size.  The main problem is that dictionaries of different sizes have been used, leading to inconsistent results.  Also, the number of test items compared to the total number of possible words (sample rate) is very low.  This method cannot really be recommended for determining the total vocabulary size of L2 learners, especially since better methods are available.

One of these methods utilizes the concept that, in general, more frequent words are learned before less frequent words.  Instead of using dictionaries which can vary in size as a source for test words, they are taken from frequency count lists.   This method entails selecting one or more frequency lists and deciding on the criteria for picking words from the lists.  The words from these lists are commonly split into frequency levels at 1,000 word intervals, although smaller groupings are possible.  Words are systematically selected from the levels the testees are likely to know, such as the first 2000 most frequent words for beginners.  The format is one where words and definitions are matched.  The percentage of answers correct in each level's section is multiplied by the total number of words in that level.  The scores from all applicable levels tests can be added together to arrive at a total vocabulary score.  The obvious advantage of this method is that information is available about how many words learners know at each level.  As such, it has even greater applications as a placement or diagnostic test than a test of total vocabulary size.   Another major advantage is that these tests are available.  The original Vocabulary Levels Testappears in Nation (1990), and a revised version with four different forms per level is now being tested for validity and equivalence (Schmitt and Nation, in preparation).
  A variation of the same concept features a completely different test format.  Checklist tests use the same procedure in selecting the words to be tested, but the learners are only required to 'check' if they know a word or not. There is a book of these checklist tests available, which includes a scoring table, called the EFL Vocabulary Tests (Meara, 1992).  There is also a commercial computerized version of this test available, the Eurocentres Vocabulary Size Test (EVST) (Eurocentres, 1990) which requires about nine minutes per student to complete.  As with the Vocabulary Levels Test, either of these tests would be particularly suitable as a placement test.
2. DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE TESTS
Since the area of testing for depth of vocabulary knowledge is so new, there are not yet many depth tests to examine.  In fact, in a recent manuscript, Wesche and Paribakht (in preparation) found only one other depth test to compare with their own.  Their experimental test, the Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS), has students rate how well they know a word.
Another test which attempts to measure how well learners know a word is The Word Associates Test being developed by Read (n.d.). This test has the potential to measure associative and collocational word knowledge, in addition to conceptual knowledge.  In it, the target word is followed by eight other words, four of which have some relationship with the target word and four which don't.  The related words can be synonyms or words similar in meaning (edit - revise), collocates or words which often occur together, (edit - film), or words which have some analytical component relationship (electron - tiny).  Learners are asked to circle the words which are related.
Cronbach (1943) suggests a test format which aims to provide a more precise measurement of word meaning.  His Multiple True/False Test asks several true/false questions about the same word.
Grammar
For all their precision, efficiency and convenience, and despite the invaluable assistance provided by the context in which they are used, words still require some further help to do their job effectively. That help comes in the form of the grammar mentioned above, which, though no longer seen simply as a set of rules, nevertheless provides information which is essential to achieving particular meanings in particular contexts.
Without such help, words might not be understood in the same way by the sender and the receiver – at worst, the appropriate collection of words could still result in a meaningless "word salad". Grammar influences the order in which words appear, and also dictates small but important changes in their form, which add vital temporal or relational information.
In the case of most natural languages, the gradual and haphazard evolution of grammar has resulted in many exceptions to its own rules! This makes it very difficult to master the grammar of a new language as an adult – though young children often absorb it without too much difficulty.
When grammar includes as many irregularities as it does in English, it becomes quite difficult to describe. Indeed, there are currently a number of approaches to English grammar. When I was at school, the favoured approach was to ignore the formal application of grammar almost completely – which may explain a few things about this book. However, that approach is not usually very helpful to those learning a second language.
Testing grammar
Grammar tests are designed to measure student’s proficiency in matters ranging from inflections to syntax. Syntax involves the relationship of words in a sentence, including matters such as word, order, use of negative, question forms, and connectives.
Grammatical ability, or rather the lack of it, sets limits to what can be achieved in the way of skills performance. The successful writing of academic achievements must depend to some extent on the command of elementary grammatical structures. The diagnostic tests of grammar are very useful for the individual and the group.
Techniques for testing grammar
1. Gap filling: Ideally gap filling items should have just one correct response. For example: What was most disturbing ……………... that for the first time in his life Ali on his way (was). He arrived late, …………... was a surprise (which)
2. Paraphrase: Paraphrase items require the students to write a sentence equivalent in meaning to one that is given. It is helpful to give part of the paraphrase in order to restrict the students to the grammatical structure being tested.
3. Completion: This technique can be used to test a variety of structures. Simple completion items used for testing grammar consists of a sentence from which a grammatical element is removed as ‘He went …………school.
There are three steps to follow in preparing simple-completion grammar test.
a) Select the grammar points that need to be tested.
b) Provide an appropriate context.
c) Write good instructions.
Three basic kinds of simple completion grammar tests:
a) The option form
The easiest simple completion items are like multiple choice questions with two options as directions: Complete the following sentence with “do” and “make”.
1. He ……………. a lot of money.
2. I always ………….my best.
b) The free response form
It illustrates how common terminology can be used occasionally. Examples: Add a question tag to these sentences:
1. Helmet was indecisive, ……………?
2. Polonius knew a lot of aphorisms, ………….?
Directions: Write in the missing part of the two-word verb.
1. What time did he gets …………. this morning?
c) Multiple choice
In this test an incomplete sentence is followed by four multiple choice options for completing the sentence. For example:
1. While she …………. the house her children were playing outside.
i) Has been cleaning ii)cleaned iii) has cleaned iv) was cleaning
2. He has lived in this town only for a week and he already has …………...friends.
i) Few ii) a few iii) not many iv) the few
Select three logical distractors.
These are the incorrect options which we put with the correct word or phrase to complete the sentence.
1. …………...the ones who know the answers.
i) They are ii) There iv) they’re v) their
It is a poor test as it is just a spelling item. Teachers should avoid such distractions and sound alike. Another source of distractors is errors on composition. This is done by students mostly on exercises or cloze passages. Test should be like this:
Several years ago, I ……………...English.
i) Studied ii) study iii) have studied iv) will study
Unnecessary materials confuse the students so it should not be added in the tests. For example:
If I had a few fur coats, …………….
Its option should be
i) I showed ii) I’d show iii) I’ve shown iv) I’ll show
Prepare clear, simple instructions:
All the instructions for solving the questions should be clear.
Cloze procedure:
1. Cloze tests are prose passages, usually a paragraph or more in length, from which words have been deleted.
2. The students rely on the context in order to supply the missing words.
3. It is easy to prepare and easy to score.
4. The cloze is simply a story or essay from which a number of words have been deleted.
5. In this test, the overall meaning and surrounding grammar help to replace the missing parts.
6. Sentence completion vocabulary and grammar items are similar in a way to cloze tests.
7. Cloze passages simply have much larger contexts.
Scoring productive grammar tests:
1. Gap filling and multiple choice items are easy to score.
2. The important thing when scoring other types of item is to be clear about what each item is testing, and to reward points for that only.
3. There should be one element, such as subject-pronoun-verb inversion, and all available points should be awarded for that.
4. If two elements are being tested in an item, then points should be assigned to each of them.
5. In this case both elements have to be correct for any points to be rewarded.
Phonology 
Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages. In other word, phonology is the sound system of a language, and the basic units of sound in any given language are its phonemes. For example, a child in an English-speaking country must know the 45 phonemes used. Children must learn to hear and to pronounce the phonemes of their language in order to make sense of the speech they hear and to be understood when they speak.
Phonology also includes the study of equivalent organizational systems in sign languages.
The TPT is the only phonology test specifically designed for this age group. Thirty seven relevant target words from the phonology subtest of the Diagnostic Evaluation of Articulation and Phonology (DEAP) are used to identify and classify error patterns in a child's speech as delayed or atypical.
Ages 2;6–11;11
Testing Time: 15–20 minutes
Norm-referenced; articulation and phonology, provides standard scores, percentile ranks, and age equivalents
CAAP-2 Kit includes: Examiner’s Manual, Stimulus Easel, 50 Articulation Response Forms, 30 Phonological Process Record Forms, 5 foam CAAP Pals, and a big tote bag! (2013)
CAAP-2 - New Norms, New Age Ranges!
The CAAP-2 is the most current assessment for articulation and phonology. It is time-efficient, accurate, and yields results that are easy to score and interpret. You can administer the Articulation Inventory in 15-20 minutes. The checklist approach to assessing phonological processes virtually eliminates the need for phonetic transcription. CAAP-2 is an assessment that you will like giving and children will enjoy taking!
Qualify students for therapy with:
Word standard scores
Sentence standard scores
Phonology standard scores
Articulation Inventory targets:
Pre- and postvocalic consonant singletons
Cluster words containing S, R, and L in the initial position
Three- and four-syllable words
Postvocalic productions of R
Production of sounds in sentences (for children 5 years and older)
Phonological Process Checklist Assesses:
Final consonant deletion
Cluster reduction
Syllable reduction
Gliding
Vocalization
Fronting (velar and palatal)
Deaffrication
Stopping
Prevocalic voicing
Postvocalic devoicing


Screening
Screening is conducted whenever a speech sound disorder is suspected or as part of a comprehensive speech and language evaluation for a child with communication concerns. The purpose of the screening is to identify those who require further speech-language/communication assessment or referral to other professional services.
Comprehensive Assessment
Individuals suspected of having a speech sound disorder based on screening results are referred to an SLP for a comprehensive assessment. The assessment protocol may include an evaluation of language and literacy skills, if indicated, and takes into account cultural and linguistic speech differences across communities, including
current research and best practice in the assessment of speech sound disorders in the language(s) and/or dialect(s) used by the client;
phonemic and allophonic variations of the language(s) and/or dialect(s) used in the community and how those variations affect a determination of a disorder or a difference;
differences among speech sound disorders, accents, dialects, patterns of transfer from one language to another, and typical developmental patterns. See phonemic inventories across languages.

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Children With Special Needs: Testing language skills and Language Elements
Testing language skills and Language Elements
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Children With Special Needs
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