Academic literacy, Diversity, Language testing, Transformation

Enough challenges for a lifetime

Several NExLA members, along with a number of other contributors, have just published a noteworthy contribution to applied linguistics in general, and language assessment in particular. In Assessing academic literacy in a multilingual society: Transition and transformation, which has just appeared from Multilingual Matters, they attempt to answer the question of how, as designers of language interventions, they respond to the challenges of education in an environment that is in transition, and in many respects unprepared for change.

Albert Weideman (UFS and UWC) was privileged to co-edit this volume with the highly experienced John Read of the University of Auckland and Theo du Plessis (UFS). As further contributors there were Tobie van Dyk (NWU), Piet Murre (Driestar Hogeschool) and Herculene Kotze (NWU); Alan Cliff (UCT); Colleen du Plessis (UFS); Jo-Mari Myburgh-Smit (UFS); Sanet Steyn (UCT); Kabelo Sebolai (SU); Avasha Rambiritch, Linda Alston, Marien Graham (all UP); Laura Drennan (UFS). Their deep professional experience in designing academic literacy interventions and assessments shows.

The book is a response both to the challenges of rapid massification of higher education and the transition to a constitutional democracy in which multilingualism is constitutionally enshrined. A third difficulty that they address lies in the degree of preparedness of new students arriving at university to handle the demands of academic language. The book illustrates that there are enough challenges for a whole lifetime of work if you’re an applied linguist.

Assessing academic literacy in a multilingual society: Transition and transformation offers a selection of the most significant innovations in conceptualization and design, this time in particular for the attention of a global readership. Nor does it limit itself to higher education: the professional attention of language testers also turn in this book to the education sector that feeds into higher education: the school system. Here, too, there are language solutions that will interest a wider audience.

In compiling a volume about language assessment at university level, co-editor John Read was the first international scholar to notice the lack of attention globally to the designs described in this book, and he was also the first to propose putting all of this together. His diligence and professional approach are evident in the content of the book.

We would welcome enquiries and discussion with colleagues. If you have an observation or an idea to share, please contact the corresponding editor, Albert Weideman, at

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