Towards a Universal Framework
The origin of LTRC in 1979 is closely related to first serious attempts to develop descriptive scales of increasing functional language proficiency. In the fifties of last century the experience of the Second World War raised concerns about lack of foreign language abilities. In the USA these concerns were mainly about government employees, in particular in the military and secret services as the USA got increasingly involved in missions abroad. In Europe governments expressed these concerns primarily in relation to their citizens: functional command of each other’s languages should increase the ability from different countries to communicate and understand each other. Meanwhile Australia launched an immigration program to absorb Europeans displaced by the war. With more than three million people immigrating over two decades the need was felt to develop a system specifying second language competency and describing the learning path to functional language proficiency.
By the seventies these concerns turned into actions and a number of concrete products were developed. In the USA the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) was formed and produced the ILR scale, also known as the FSI scale after its origin with the US Foreign Service Institute. In Europe the Threshold level was published by the Council of Europe soon to be followed by the Waystage level and ultimately developed into the descriptive scale incorporated in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In Australia David Ingram published the Australian Second Language Proficiency Ratings (ASLPR, later renamed as ISLPR).
In the first years of LTRC three main parties were involved in the discussion, academics, US language testing companies and the US government agencies. Gradually more and more scholars from other parts of the world joined in the discussions. The development of LTRC from a North American gathering into an international event was acknowledged in 1992 by the foundation of the International Language Testing Association (ILTA) with LTRC as its annual conference and in 1993 LTRC travelled outside of North America for the first time.
Throughout LTRC’s history describing developing language proficiency has been the Holy Grail, a thread across its various annual themes. Indeed the original validity theme is about the relation between test scores and degrees of real live ability to use the language tested.
However successful the various frameworks and their related scales have been, they all need improvement and adaptation to current new insights in second and foreign language acquisition. Furthermore we see that the need for well-founded structural descriptive scales is growing in the emerging markets as they increasingly wish to participate in the global economy. To meet those demands the scales originated in specific cultural contexts, be it Australian, American, or European need to take account of variations in the learning routes across the world and develop a truly universal validity.
Now is the time to seek common ground for the ILR scale and its offspring, the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), with its deterministic, Guttman approach to scaling, the ASLPR (now ISLPR) based on classical distribution theory, and the Common European Framework descriptive system, which using Rasch scaling is based on a probabilistic model. As each of these scales relates progress to real world functional skills, it should be possible to make the necessary improvements of each move towards a common, universally valid descriptive system.
We invite proposals dealing with the theme of development of our field Towards a Universal Framework, specifically discussing
The deadline for submitting proposals is 24 November 2013 at midnight Anywhere on Earth.
Proposals can be for papers, posters, works in progress, or symposia.
Papers will be 30 minutes total with 20 minutes presentation and 10 minutes for discussion.
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