Describing School Achievement in Asian Languages for Diverse Learner Groups
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139


While there have been a number of studies exploring the impact of time-on-task and language background on language achievement for both English and other languages, the Student Achievement in Asian Languages Education (SAALE) project constitutes the first systematic attempt to gather empirical evidence of these effects for four Asian languages (Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Korean) in Australian schools. The paper focuses on the approach adopted to measure and exemplify the diverse nature of learner achievements in the context of concern. This approach involved a) the gathering of information about the language background and prior learning experience of the study’s participants in order to establish learner sub-groups for subsequent analysis, b) the use of common assessment procedures at each level of schooling to compare levels of achievement across learner sub-groups and c) the analysis of samples of each sub-group’s performance by teams of teacher experts to develop rich descriptions of achievement reflecting the different dimensions of diversity relevant to each language.

The paper outlines the methodology adopted for the study, and reports briefly on the overall findings, Particular attention is paid to the challenges encountered in undertaking the research and to the further efforts that are needed to build on the project outcomes.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abbott, M.
    (2006) ESL reading strategies: Differences in Arabic and Mandarin speaker test performance. Language Learning, 56, 633–670. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑9922.2006.00391.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2006.00391.x [Google Scholar]
  2. Blondin, C. , Candelier, M. , Edelenbos, P. , Johnstone, R. , Kubanek-German, A. & Taeschner, T.
    (1998) Foreign languages in primary and pre-school education: context and outcomes. London: CILT.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Bolger, P.A. & Zapata, G.C.
    (2011) Psycholinguistic approaches to language processing in heritage language speakers. Heritage Language Journal, 8(1), 1–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Brown, A. , Hill, K. & Iwashita, N.
    (2000) Is learner progress in LOTE learning comparable across languages?Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 23(2), 35–60.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Burstall, C.
    (1975) French in the primary school: The British experiment. Canadian Modern Language Review. Retrieved22 November, 2009, fromeric.ed.gov:80/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Carreira, M.
    (2004) Seeking explanatory adequacy: A dual approach to understanding the term “heritage language learner.”Heritage Language Journal, 2(1), 1–25.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Carreira, M. & Potowski, K.
    (2011) Pedagogical implications of experimental SNS research. Heritage Language Journal, 8(1), 134–147.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Carroll, J. B.
    (1967) Foreign language proficiency levels attained by language majors near graduation from college. Foreign Language Annals, 1, 131–151. doi: 10.1111/j.1944‑9720.1967.tb00127.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.1967.tb00127.x [Google Scholar]
  9. Cleveland, H. , Mangone, G. J. , & Adams, J. C.
    (1960) The overseas Americans: A report on Americans abroad. New York: McGraw-Hill.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Clyne, M.
    (1986) An early start: second language at primary school. Melbourne: River Seine.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Clyne, M. , Fernandez, S. , Chen, I. & Summo-O’Connell, R.
    (1997) Background speakers: Diversity and its management in LOTE programs. Belconnen, ACT: The National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Clyne, M. , Jenkins, C. , Chen, I. Y. , Tsolalidou R. , & Wallner, T.
    (1995) Developing second language from primary school. Canberra: NLLIA.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Collins, L. , Halter, R. H. , Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N.
    (1999) Time and the distribution of time in L2 instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 33(4), 655–680. doi: 10.2307/3587881
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3587881 [Google Scholar]
  14. Corder S. P.
    (1981) Language distance and the magnitude of the language learning task. InError analysis and interlanguage (pp.95–102). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. de Courcy, M. C.
    (2002) Learners’ experiences of immersion education: Case studies of French and Chinese. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. DeKeyser, R.
    (1991) Foreign language development during a semester abroad. In B. F. Freed , (Ed.), Foreign Language Acquisition Research and the Classroom (pp. 104–118). Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Dufon, M. & Churchill, E.
    (Eds) (2006) Language learners in study abroad contexts. London: Multilingual Matters.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Elder, C.
    (1989) Drowning or waving? An evaluation of an Italian partial immersion program at a Victorian primary school. Melbourne Papers in Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 9–17.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. (1996) The effect of language background on ‘foreign’ language test performance: The case of Chinese, Italian and Modern Greek. Language Learning, 46(2), 233–82. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑1770.1996.tb01236.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1996.tb01236.x [Google Scholar]
  20. (1997) The background speaker as learner of Italian, Modern Greek and Chinese: Implications for foreign language assessment. Doctoral dissertation, University of Melbourne.
  21. (2000a) Learner diversity and its implications for outcomes-based assessment. In C. Elder (Ed.). Defining standards and monitoring progress in languages other than English. uest edited issue of theAustralian Review of Applied Linguistics, 23(2), 36–61.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. (2000b) Outing the ‘native speaker’: The problem of diverse learner backgrounds in foreign language classrooms. Language, Curriculum and Culture, 13(1), 86–108. doi: 10.1080/07908310008666591
    https://doi.org/10.1080/07908310008666591 [Google Scholar]
  23. Farmer, K.
    (2006) The Japanese bilingual program at Huntingdale Primary School, Melbourne. Babel, 41(2), 32–4, 38.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Freed, B. F.
    (Ed.) (1995) Second language acquisition in a study abroad context. Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/sibil.9
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sibil.9 [Google Scholar]
  25. Hill, K.
    (2012) Classroom-based assessment in the school foreign language classroom. Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang. doi: 10.3726/978‑3‑653‑01984‑1
    https://doi.org/10.3726/978-3-653-01984-1 [Google Scholar]
  26. Hill, K. , Davies, A. , Oldfield, J. & Watson, N.
    (1997) Questioning an early start: the transition from primary to secondary foreign language learning. Melbourne Papers in Language Testing, 6(2): 21–36.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Iwashita, N
    . (this issue). Cross-linguistic influence as a factor in the written and oral production of school age learners of Japanese in Australia.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Jarvis, S. & Pavlenko, E.
    (2008) Crosslinguistic influence in language and cognition. New York/London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Johnstone, R.
    (2000) Context-sensitive assessment of modern languages in primary (elementary) and early secondary education: Scotland and the European experience. Language Testing, 17(2), 123–142.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. (2006) Review of research on language teaching, learning and policy published in 2004 and 2005. Language Teaching, 9(4), 1–27. doi: 10.1017/S0261444806003892
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444806003892 [Google Scholar]
  31. Kagan, O.
    (2005) In support of a proficiency-based definition of heritage language learners: The case of Russian. The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 8(2&3), 213–221. doi: 10.1080/13670050508668608
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050508668608 [Google Scholar]
  32. Kim, H.-S.
    (2005) Processing strategies and transfer by heritage and non-heritage learners of Korean. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Kim, J.-H. , Montrul, S. & Yoon, J.
    (2009) Bindng interpretations of Korean heritage speakers. Language Acquisition, 16, 3–55. doi: 10.1080/10489220802575293
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10489220802575293 [Google Scholar]
  34. Kim, S. H. O.
    (this issue). Learner background and the acquisition of discourse features of Korean in the Australian secondary school context.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. King, K. A. & Ennser-Kananen, J.
    (2012) Heritage languages and language policy. In C. Chapelle , (Ed.). The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/978140519843.
    https://doi.org/10.1002/978140519843 [Google Scholar]
  36. Kohler
    (this issue). How does time-on-task affect the achievement of early and late starters of Indonesian in schools?
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Kondo-Brown, K.
    (2008) Issues and future agendas for teaching Chinese, Japanese and Korean heritage students. In K. Kondo-Brown & J. D. Brown , (Eds.), Teaching Chinese, Japanese and Korean heritage language students: Curriculum needs, materials, and assessment (pp.17–43). New York: Lawrence Erbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Lado, R.
    (1957) Linguistics across cultures: applied linguistics for language teachers. Michigan, University of Michigan Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Lapkin, S. , Hart, D. & Swain, M.
    (1995) A Canadian interprovincial exchange: Evaluating the linguistic impact of a three-month stay in Quebec. In B. F. Freed , (Ed.), Second language acquisition in a study abroad context (pp.67–94). Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/sibil.9.06lap
    https://doi.org/10.1075/sibil.9.06lap [Google Scholar]
  40. Llosa, L.
    (in press) Assessing heritage language learners. In A. Kunnan Ed. Companion to Language Assessment. London: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781118411360.wbcla121
    https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118411360.wbcla121 [Google Scholar]
  41. Lorch, S. , McNamara, T. & Eisokovitz, E.
    (1992) Late Hebrew immersion at Mt Scopus College, Melbourne: towards complete Hebrew fluency for Jewish day school students. Language and Language Education, 2(1), 1–29.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Marriott, H.
    (1993) Acquiring sociolinguistic competence: Australian secondary students in Japan. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 4(4), 167–92.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Molyneux, P.
    (2004) Pride and empowerment: Bilingually educated students reflect on their learning. Australian Language and Literacy Matters, 1(2), 4–10.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Montrul, S.
    (2002) Incomplete acquisition and attrition of Spanish tense/aspect distinctions in adult bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 5(1), 39–68. doi: 10.1017/S1366728902000135
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728902000135 [Google Scholar]
  45. Montrul, S. & Perpiñán. S.
    (2011) Assessing differences and similarities between instructed heritage language learners and L2 learners in their knowledge of Spanish tense-aspect and mood (TAM) morphology. Heritage Language Journal, 8(1), 90–113.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Odlin, T.
    (1989) Language Transfer: Cross-linguistic Influence in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139524537
  47. O’Grady, W. , Kwak, H-Y. , Lee, O.-S. , & Lee, M.
    (2011) An emergentist perspective on heritage language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 223–45. doi: 10.1017/S0272263110000744
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263110000744 [Google Scholar]
  48. O’Grady , Lee, O-S & Lee, J-H
    (2011) Practical and theoretical issues in the study of heritage language acquisition. Heritage Language Journal, 8(3), 23–39.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Oostdam, R. & Van Toorenburg, H.
    (2002) ‘Leuk is not enough’: Het vraagstuk van de positionering van Engels inhebasisondervijs en de aansluitingmet het voortgezetonderwijs. LevendeTalentijdschrift, 3(4), 3–17.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Ozolins, U.
    (1993) The politics of language in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Polinsky, M.
    (2008) Without aspect. In G. Corbett & M. Noonan , (Eds.), Case and grammatical relations (pp.263–82). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1075/tsl.81.13pol
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.81.13pol [Google Scholar]
  52. Polinsky, M. & Kagan, O.
    (2007) Heritage languages: In the ‘wild’ and in the classroom. Language and Linguistics Compass, 1(5), 368–395. doi: 10.1111/j.1749‑818X.2007.00022.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00022.x [Google Scholar]
  53. Pufahl, I. , Rhodes, N. C. & Christian, D.
    (2000) Foreign Language Teaching: What the United States Can Learn from other Countries. Eric Document ED-00-PO-4609.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Rao, Z.
    (2001) Matching teaching styles with learning styles in East Asian contexts. The Internet TESL Journal, VII(7). Retrieved fromiteslj.org/Techniques/Zhenhui-TeachingStyles.html.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Rudd, K.
    (1994) Asian Languages and Australia’s Economic Future: A report prepared for the Council of Australian Governments on a proposed national Asian languages/studies strategy for Australian schools. Brisbane: Queensland Government Printer.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Scarino, A. , Elder, C. , Iwashita, N. , Kim, S. H. O. , Kohler, M. & Scrimgeour, A.
    (2011) Student Achievement in Asian Languages Education. Full report. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations: Canberra.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Scarino, A.
    (this issue). A rationale for acknowledging the diversity of learner achievements in learning particular languages in school education in Australia.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Serrano, R. Tragant, E. & Llanes, A.
    (2012) A longitudinal analysis of the effects of one year abroad. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 68(2), 138–163. doi: 10.3138/cmlr.68.2.138
    https://doi.org/10.3138/cmlr.68.2.138 [Google Scholar]
  59. Slaughter, Y.
    (2007a) The study of Asian languages in two Australian states: Considerations for language-in-education policy and planning. Unpublished PhD thesis. Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, University of Melbourne.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. (2007b) The rise and fall of Indonesian in Australian schools: Implications for language policy and planning. Asian Studies Review, 31, 301–322. doi: 10.1080/10357820701559097
    https://doi.org/10.1080/10357820701559097 [Google Scholar]
  61. Spada, N. , Lightbown, P. M.
    (1989) Intensive ESL programs in Quebec primary schools. TESL Canada Journal, 7(1), 11–32. doi: 10.18806/tesl.v7i1.557
    https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v7i1.557 [Google Scholar]
  62. Stern, H. H.
    (1985) The time factor and compact course development. TESL Canada Journal, 3(1), 13–27. doi: 10.18806/tesl.v3i1.471
    https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v3i1.471 [Google Scholar]
  63. Valdés, G.
    (2001) Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In J. K. Peyton , D. A. Ranard , & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource (pp.37–80). Washington, DC & McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics & Delta Systems.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Victoria, Department ofucation and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)
    Victoria, Department ofucation and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) (2010) Languages Other Than English in Victorian Government Schools 2009. Melbourne: DEECD. Retrieved9 September, 2012fromwww.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/LOTE/lotereport2009.pdf
    [Google Scholar]
  65. Vinjé, M. P.
    (1993) Balans van het Engels aanheteinde van de basisschool. Arnhem: CITO.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Wiley, T. G.
    (2001) On defining heritage languages and their speakers. In J. K. Peyton , D. A. Ranard , & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource (pp.29–36). Washington, DC & McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics & Delta Systems.
    [Google Scholar]
  67. Wilkinson, S.
    (1998) Study abroad from the participants’ perspective: A challenge to common beliefs. Foreign Language Annals, 31, 23–39. doi: 10.1111/j.1944‑9720.1998.tb01330.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.1998.tb01330.x [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): language background; Learning Asian languages; time-on-task
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error