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Plurilingualism and Assessment (with reference to the new Common European Framework of Reference for Languages Companion Volume)

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In this talk I will present a perspective on plurilingualism based on the assertion that language assessment is fundamentally linked to language learning. As Jones and Saville (2016) note, there are ‘two key purposes of assessment: to promote learning, and to measure and interpret what has been learned.’ But in which ways can these twin goals be achieved more effectively? In educational contexts, the language to be learned has traditionally been viewed as an additional or foreign language, defined by Kunnan and Saville (2019) as a codified or standard language, that is taught and assessed as a school subject. However, Martyniuk and others have pointed out that language learning can be viewed differently when using the lens of plurilingualism. This heteroglossic approach focuses on an individual’s entire plurilingual repertoire, including all standard languages and dialects at varying levels of proficiency. MacSwan (2017) terms this individual multilingualism. In this talk I use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)’s definition of plurilingualism and focus on the recently published Companion Volume (Council of Europe, 2018). This document has two new sets of descriptors for plurilingualism: plurilingual comprehension and building plurilingual repertoires. Heteroglossic approaches of this kind have grown in recent years (e.g. Blackledge & Creese, 2010), but the impact on language assessment has been limited (Schissel, De Korne and López-Gopar, 2018). This is set to change. The long-term goal should be to align learning and assessment effectively to create the necessary conditions for building plurilingual repertoires. To achieve this, there will need to be new forms of plurilingual assessment, with technology inevitably playing a key role.

This talk is part of the Second Language Education Group series.

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