Tim McNamara. Photo: Private
Tim McNamara. Photo: Private

Abstract

This paper argues that the primary challenge facing language testing at the moment is the need to face the implications for assessment of the reality of English as a Lingua Franca.  Given that much of the world’s business, its education (including national and international conferences) and its political interaction is conducted in English as a Lingua Franca, it is remarkable that few if any language tests exist specifically directed at measuring competence in English as a Lingua Franca communication.  The reasons for this are complex, but are clearly associated with the fact that, as Messick pointed out, values are at the heart of the constructs in educational assessment. 

What values underlie the resistance of our field to the testing of English as a Lingua Franca? This paper tries to set out the radical implications for our field of an embrace of the construct of English as a Lingua Franca for the design of English language assessments, and the likely types of resistance that would result.  The issue reveals the fundamentally value-driven and political character of language testing, a notion our field continues to experience as a major challenge.