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ERIC Number: ED028411
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1968-Nov
Pages: 23
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
What Does it Mean to Know a Language, Or How Do You Get Someone to Perform His Competence?
Spolsky, Bernard
Fries' definition of knowing a language rejects the layman's notion that the criterion is knowing a certain number of words. It involves, rather, knowing a set of items--sound segments, sentence patterns, lexical items--which must be made a matter of automatic habit. Various approaches to testing someone's use of a language have failed to take into account two vital truths about language: it is redundant, and it is creative. Redundancy, which may seem wasteful of effort, is of great use, as it reduces the possibility of error and permits communication where there is some interference in the communication channel (i.e., noise). Implications are that knowing a language involves the ability to understand a distorted message, and that theoretical questions may be raised about the value of deciding a person knows a language because he knows certain items in the language. Other implications are that one may learn a language just as well by listening as by speaking, and that we can find out about "knowledge of a language" equally well when we test passive and active skills, because the same linguistic competence, the same knowledge of rules, underlies both kinds of performance. One approach to test ability in a second language may be to add noise, or mask portions of text. (AMM)
Publication Type: N/A
Education Level: N/A
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Note: Paper prepared for the second conference on Problems in Foreign Language Testing, University of Southern California, November 7-9, 1968.