The Art of Non-conversation

The Art of Non-conversation: A Reexamination of the Validity of the Oral Proficiency Interview

MARYSIA JOHNSON
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1njm9h
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  • Book Info
    The Art of Non-conversation
    Book Description:

    The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a widely accepted instrument for assessing second and foreign language ability. It is used by the Foreign Language Institute, the Defense Language Institute, Educational Testing Service, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, and at many universities in the United States.The Art of Non-Conversationexamines the components of speaking ability and asks whether the OPI is a valid instrument for assessing them.Marysia Johnson applies the latest insights from discourse and conversational analysis to determine the nature of the OPI's communicative speech event and investigate its construct validity within Messick's definition of validity. She discusses models of speaking ability-several communicative competence models, an interactional competence model, and a model of spoken interaction based on Vygotsky's sociocultural theory of learning. Finally she proposes a new model to test language proficiency drawn from sociocultural theory, one that considers language ability to be reflective of the sociocultural and institutional contexts in which the language has been acquired.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12944-1
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK
    (pp. 1-5)

    The purpose of this book is to provide answers to two fundamental questions. The first is a practical one, and it represents the main focus of the book: Is the Oral Proficiency Interview a valid instrument for assessing language speaking proficiency? The second is a theoretical one: What is speaking ability? (that is, speaking ability that exists independently of testing instruments).

    Currently, an interview is a common way of assessing speaking ability in a second/foreign language in the United States and around the world. In particular, the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is a very popular instrument for assessing second/foreign language...

  6. Chapter 2 THE GENESIS AND EVOLUTION OF THE OPI SYSTEM
    (pp. 6-19)

    The history of the Oral Proficiency Interview, as presented in Lowe 1983, 1986, Clark and Clifford 1988, and Valdman 1988, is closely associated with the efforts of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the U.S. Department of State in the early 1950s to develop proficiency- based testing to evaluate the foreign functional language skills of its employees. Dissatisfied with the existing language tests and procedures based on multiple choice and other discrete-item approaches, the FSI developed a series of verbally defined levels of general speaking proficiency. These descriptions were based on a needs analysis that was conducted to identify typical...

  7. Chapter 3 A CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF THE OPI
    (pp. 20-40)

    A large group of researchers working in the fields of language testing and teaching has voiced strong criticism of the ACTFL /ETS/ILR. Bachman (1988, 1990), Bachman and Savignon (1986), Lantolf and Frawley (1985, 1988) also warned against institutionalization of the OPI prior to conducting a thorough empirical investigation of the OPI system and prior to establishing the sound theory of proficiency, on which the OPI is claimed to be based. The institutionalization of the OPI, however, is evident not only in the context of government and academia, but in the business community as well.

    In the early 1990s, the Test...

  8. Chapter 4 THEORETICAL BASES FOR INVESTIGATING THE OPI SPEECH EVENT
    (pp. 41-75)

    In this chapter, I shall describe theoretical bases—theoretical rationales, in Messick’s term—for investigating the qustion, What kind of speech event is the OPI? Since the key phrase in this question is “speech event,” I shall first define that term by referring to the work of Hymes (1972, 1974) and his ethnography of communication. Second, I shall describe various characteristics of the three speech events most frequently associated with the OPI: a conversation, an interview, and a classroom interaction. My description of the selected speech events will be based on recent findings in the field of discourse analysis and...

  9. Chapter 5 A DISCOURSE ANALYSIS STUDY OF THE OPI
    (pp. 76-120)

    In this chapter, I adduce some empirical evidence in the form of quantitative and qualitative OPI data analysis findings. The main purpose of the discourse analysis (DA) study is to answer the questions, What kind of speech event is the OPI? is it most like an everyday conversation, a classroom interaction, or an interview? That is, the ultimate purpose of the DA study is to determine what the most salient features of the OPI speech event are. Once the most salient features of the OPI are identified, we can then match them with the prototypical features of the three speech...

  10. Chapter 6 NATIVE SPEAKERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE OPI SPEECH EVENT
    (pp. 121-139)

    In this chapter, I shall describe a semantic differential study that aims at investigating the nature of the OPI from the outside perspective. In the previous chapter, I presented evidence from the inside perspective. That is, based on a quantitative data analysis of thirty-five OPIs, I have identified the salient features of the OPI communicative speech event. Here, I shall investigate how testers and nontesters perceive what it is that has been done in the OPI, and whether testers and nontesters differ as to their perceptions or judgments of the OPI communicative speech event. Recall that according to Hymes (1974),...

  11. Chapter 7 A PROTOTYPICAL MODEL OF THE OPI COMMUNICATIVE SPEECH EVENT
    (pp. 140-151)

    The DA study findings provide empirical evidence as to the communicative nature of the OPI’s speech event. That is, they answer the question, What kind of speech event is the OPI? is it more like an everyday conversation, an interview, or a classroom interaction? The OPI speech event is likean interview. More precisely, the OPI represents a unique type of interview that is closely associated with a given phase of the OPI. That is, the level check and probes phases representa survey research interview,and the warm-up and wind-down representa sociolinguistic interview.

    The findings of the SD...

  12. Chapter 8 COMMUNICATIVE COMPETENCE VERSUS INTERACTIONAL COMPETENCE
    (pp. 152-180)

    Communicative competence represents a prevailing theoretical framework for second/foreign language teaching and testing. It has been popularized in second language teaching by the communicative language teaching approach (Richards and Rodgers 1986) and in language testing by the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which claims to measure students’ communicative competence in English as a foreign language. Precisely because of its impact on second language teaching and testing, I shall provide a historical overview of the notion of communicative competence, and I shall describe the two most popular and influential models of communicative competence in second language theory and...

  13. Chapter 9 THE PRACTICAL ORAL LANGUAGE ABILITY: THE APPLICATION OF VYGOTSKY’S SOCIOCULTURAL THEORY TO LANGUAGE TESTING
    (pp. 181-206)

    The Soviet psychologist Lev S. Vygotsky (1896– 1934) wrote extensively on the issues pertaining to cognitive and educational psychology, philosophy, semiotics, and psycholinguistics. He advocated interdisciplinary connections among various branches of knowledge as the only means for achieving scientific progress. The interdisciplinary nature of Vygotsky’s work has appealed to a wide range of scientific branches of knowledge.

    For some time now, such scholars as Lantolf and Appel (1998), van Lier (1996), Lantolf and Pavlenko (1995), Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994), and Schinke-Llano (1993) have been applying Vygotsky’s ideas, in particular his sociocultural theory, to second language acquisition theory and instruction. Despite...

  14. Appendixes
    (pp. 207-212)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-226)
  16. Index
    (pp. 227-230)