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Evaluating oral proficiency development in Spanish language programs

Carolina Viera and Kelly Arispe from the Department of World Languages recently co-authored and published “Can Spanish programs evaluate oral proficiency gains for all learners? An empirical analysis of traditional and nontraditional Spanish majors’ oral proficiency development” in Foreign Language Annals, a scholarly journal of the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Higher education Spanish programs in the United States are diverse and complex, especially when it comes to student linguistic background, the authors say. However, most studies on language proficiency were designed for traditional learners. Viera and Arispe’s article presents a longitudinal quantitative analysis of oral proficiency for 125 Spanish majors according to four linguistic profiles: Extended stay abroad learners, second language learners, native speakers and Spanish heritage language learners.

They collected data using an oral exam at the beginning and end of students’ upper division coursework based on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages oral proficiency guidelines. Quantitative analysis reveals significant differences within groups for senior exit oral proficiency exam scores as well as level gains.

According to the authors, these findings suggest that oral proficiency exams assist toward understanding differences in oral proficiency development for the four student categories.