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The University of Southampton
Centre for Global Englishes

CGE Seminar series podcast - Prof. Constant Leung “Deconstructing Proficiency: What is speaking?”

Published: 13 December 2012

A podcast is now available of the 1st CGE invited speaker seminar.

A podcast is now available of the 1st CGE invited speaker seminar. Click here to view:


Centre for Global Englishes

“Deconstructing Proficiency: What is speaking?”


Prof. Constant Leung

Kings College London


This paper examines the notion of speaking with particular reference to language assessment.  Drawing on empirical data collected in ethnically and linguistically diverse English-speaking school and university classrooms, it will be shown that spoken language in live interaction is considerably more complex and contingent than is currently envisaged in theoretical models of communicative competence.  Furthermore, the data suggests a lack of congruence between the spoken language that actually occurs in classroom contexts and the construct of speaking underlying many of the criteria/descriptors in assessment frameworks such as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.


It will be argued that assessment of speaking should focus on interactional meaning-making by participants.   This approach recognises that, inter alia, communication is driven by participant interests and goal, topic content and situated socio-cultural practices, and that situated pragmatic norms of social interaction are fluid and negotiable, rather than fixed as they tend to be in high-stakes testing and assessment.  The discussion will conclude with some remarks on the need for an expanded notion of speaking that can take account of emergent ‘local’ language competences and practices in contemporary conditions.

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