Critically Examining Perceptions of Different Englishes in the IELTS Speaking Section: Who Decides What is Acceptable?
Keywords:IELTS, Linguistic imperialism, linguicism, Native speaker, non-standard varieties of English
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has become the worldwide benchmark for evaluating English language proficiency. However, the IELTS exam is not without its critics. It has been accused of being elitist and unaccommodating of test-takers who are not users of the prestige varieties of English, even though these people may need to take the exam for employment or immigration purposes. This study involved a focus group of experienced IELTS examiners who were given a number of listenings from non-standard yet still ‘native speakers’ of English to evaluate using the IELTS speaking bands. The focus group found that the IELTS speaking descriptors are not fit for purpose when dealing with non-standard or regional varieties of English. This study makes a case for the creators of the IELTS exam to adjust their grading criteria and examiner training to be more inclusive of all English varieties.
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