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June 2005

In June, the Year of Languages highlights adult language learning and language use. The business community, policy makers, and educators increasingly recognize that today’s workplaces require language skills specific to professional settings. Two CAL projects featured here focus on developing and measuring adults’ use of English in the workplace.

English for Heritage Language Speakers

Sectors of the U.S. government responsible for defense and national security have expressed an urgent need for individuals with high levels of proficiency in both English and any of several critical languages (Government Accounting Office, 2002). In response, CAL’s English for Heritage Language Speakers project aims to help heritage speakers of these critical languages develop their English proficiency to high levels, with a particular focus on language skills specific to the security workplace. This project is funded by the National Security Education Program, which has contracted with CAL to create a framework for the program. The framework will include a rationale, community outreach strategies, and plans for curriculum development.

For more information about CAL’s English for Heritage Language Speakers project, contact Grace Burkart at CAL.

The Work Readiness Oral Language Test

CAL is developing a test of listening and speaking skills in English based on the Equipped for the Future (EFF) adult learning standards. Created to address a skills gap in the American workforce, EFF standards identify the abilities needed to hold entry-level positions. The oral English test will be one of four tests required for an EFF Work Readiness Credential. Other tests include a test of situational judgment, a test of using math to solve problems, and a test of reading with understanding. The Work Readiness Oral Language Test, which is being developed by CAL under a subcontract from SRI International, will be used to measure the test taker’s ability to listen actively and to speak so that others can understand. Test takers will include both English language learners and native English speakers. The EFF Work Readiness Credential will give employers a tool for certifying that job applicants have the skills needed to work and learn effectively on the job.

For more information about CAL’s Work Readiness Oral Language Test project, contact Dorry Kenyon or Meg Malone at CAL.


General Accounting Office. (2002). Foreign languages: Human capital approach needed to correct staffing and proficiency shortfalls (GAO-02-375). Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved November 12, 2004, from

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Additional resources on adult language learning & use

Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA)

Issues in Improving Immigrant Workers' English Language Skills

Preparing for Success: A Guide for Teaching Adult English Language Learners

Learners' Lives as Curriculum: Six Journeys to Immigrant Literacy

Reading and Adult English Language Learners: A Review of the Research


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