The relationship between language testing and second language acquisition, revisited

Elana Shohamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper examines the relationship between and the relevance of second language acquisition (SLA) and language testing (LT). Based on three dimensions of potential contributions of LT to SLA [(1) defining the construct of language ability; (2) applying LT findings to test SLA hypotheses; and (3) providing SLA researchers with quality criteria for tests and tasks] and three dimensions of potential contribution of SLA to LT [(1) identifying language components for elicitation and criteria assessment; (2) proposing tasks for assessing language; and (3) informing language testers about differences and accommodating these differences], this paper examines the interfaces of the two fields based on articles published in recent issues of the journals "Language Testing" and "Studies in Second Language Acquisition". The relevance of LT to SLA is examined based on written interviews with leading scholars in SLA who were asked about the relevance of LT to their work. The results indicate very limited interfaces between the two fields as well as limited relevance of LT to SLA. The conclusions and implications discuss to the potential need of LT to broaden its focus and scope by addressing broader views of language learning and language processing such as: viewing language in its complexities and dynamics; involving the learners and test takers; marketing better LT theories to those out of the field; expanding the context beyond psychometrics; expanding the types of instruments used beyond tests; addressing educational issues; and working towards relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-553
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2000


  • Data collection
  • Interaction
  • Language testing
  • Relevance
  • Second language acquisition
  • Second language research


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