Monday, November 11, 2013

Not a Valid Test of English

Sent to the New York Times, November 11, 2013

The conclusion that "English Proficiency Falters Among the French" (Nov. 11) is based on performance on the "EF (English First) English Proficiency Index."

A nation's EF English Proficiency Index score is based on performance on two kinds of tests: One test is open "to any internet user for free,' and is thus limited to those with easy access to the internet.  The other test is a placement test students take before enrolling for an English class at an EF Language School, a private institution. Those who take the placement test are those who can afford such classes, and who are beginners or intermediates. Those who speak English well have no need for such classes.

In other words, these tests can only be taken by upper-income citizens and misses less wealthy citizens who might speak English well, and one of the two tests is limited to lower level English speakers and thus cannot tell us about a country's overall English proficiency.

There is no way of generalizing  a country's true English proficiency from the EF Proficiency Index.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California


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