Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
European governments wish European citizens to have a working command of at least two foreign languages. To provide a transparant system for language instruction and assessment in Europe, the Council of Europe produced, in 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This framework, however, is not based on a theory of language proficiency. The aim of the proposed project is to develop an empirically-founded theory of language proficiency. Based on an interactionalist view of second language assessment (Chapelle, 1998), this project aims to investigate the compositional nature of the construct of second language proficiency by singling out components associated with language knowledge (architecture), language control (processing), and communicative setting (context) in a cross-sectional design (language development). The project consists of three studies. In study 1, 200 learners of Dutch as a second language at two proficiency levels and a control group of 50 native speakers will perform speaking tasks in the personal and public domain (context), as well as a number of off-line knowledge tests (architecture) and on-line control tests (processing). With the use of structural equation modeling, the relative weight of vocabulary knowledge, grammatical knowledge and speed of word and sentence processing will be assessed in speaking performance in personal and public communicative settings. In two small-scale studies, involving 30 Turkish and 30 English learners of Dutch and 15 native controls, in-depth investigations will be conducted to link assessment of speaking performance with what is known about stages of interlanguage development and about the influence of the first language on the acquisition of a second language (study 2) and with notions of fluency and automaticity (study 3).