Testing Second Language Listening Ability

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Elvis Wagner


In order to test second language listening ability, it is necessary to first define what second language listening ability actually is. Unfortunately, researchers have as yet been unable to formulate an agreed-upon and workable definition of L2 listening ability. This is partly because the processes involved in L2 listening comprehension are so dependent on the context of the listening situation that the establishment of a global, comprehensive definition is probably impossible. However, Buck (2001) has created what he calls a “default listening construct” that seems to be useful, because it is flexible and broad enough to be applied in most listening situations. Buck defines L2 listening ability as the ability: 1) To process extended samples of realistic spoken language, automatically and in real time; 2) To understand the linguistic information that is unequivocally included in the text; 3) To make whatever inferences are unambiguously implicated by the content of the passage (Buck, 2001, p. 114). Using this definition of L2 listening ability allows teachers and testers to create valid and useful listening tests.

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