Identifying Oral Proficiency Profiles of Heritage Speakers
Project Leader: Elvira Swender (ACTFL Professional Programs)
Each year thousands of heritage language speakers are given an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) for a variety of purposes. Because the OPI rating guidelines and scales (ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines or ILR Language Descriptors) were written for true second language learners, there is debate in the language testing community about their validity for assessing heritage language speakers (Valdés, 1989; Lowe, 1998; Kagan & Friedman, 2003). This project will gather data on the range and variety of linguistic profiles of Chinese and Hindi heritage speakers through oral proficiency testing and rating. In light of this data, the linguistic biographies of the test takers will be analyzed in order to gain an understanding of the linguistic, educational, and experiential factors that contribute to their speaking proficiency. This understanding will result in an expanded set of OPI descriptors that are needed to capture heritage speakers’ proficiency, enhance OPI tester training so that heritage speaker knowledge is taken into account, and inform instruction of heritage students. The results will also provide a corpus of data for curriculum development.