September 2006
Volume 10, Number 2

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Regionally Specific Tasks of Non-Western English Language Use

Betty Lanteigne
American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates


Many English tests based on Western culture are inappropriate for regions where English use differs from that of Europe and North America. In these non-Western settings, it is desirable that English assessments be based on real-world English use. Therefore, identifying tasks of non-Western English language use is a beginning step in developing culturally appropriate English language tests. This cross-cultural sociolinguistic research is part of a larger project involving semi-structured interviews with twenty-nine English teachers from Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, the Arabian Gulf, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, India, Singapore, and the Philippines. In this report three task descriptions of non-Western English language use are identified, categorized by domain, setting, and language skill, based on Baine's (1988) ecological inventory. A confirmation survey was utilized to identify three tasks of non-Western English language use (in home, work, and community domains) that are culturally appropriate for assessment in some non-Western regions. Informants' comments from the interviews address reasons for considering these tasks as culturally inappropriate in other non-Western regions and thus give insight as to how they may be reworded to be appropriate in those regions. "Culturally inappropriate" in this research refers to offensiveness as well as being outside of established sociopragmatic use.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, assessment, culture, foreign language tests, test tasks, task analysis, cultural content of tests

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