Assessing language proficiency in Greek of the children attending Greek-Turkish bilingual minority schools of Western Thrace

Start Date: 01/05/2002
End Date: 31/12/2004
Project Leader: Tzevelekou Maria

The research project entitled “Assessing language proficiency in Greek” was designed in the second phase of the Programme “Education of the Muslim Minority Children 2002-2004”. Its aim was threefold:

  • to develop methods for measuring, on the basis of an objective proficiency scale, children’s knowledge of Greek.
  • to provide a basis for a more focused language teaching activity
  • to collect in a systematic way linguistic and sociolinguistic data of the process of acquiring Greek as a second language.

These issues eventually crystallized in a language assessment procedure. A series of tests was set up in order:

  • to assess language proficiency within the context of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF),
  • to diagnose weaknesses in student’s language competence on the basis of various linguistic components – such as grammar, phonology, vocabulary etc – and across different skills, and
  • to see whether children of the sixth grade of elementary school have the necessary language proficiency to attend secondary schools.

The descriptions appearing in the CEF (can-do statements) pertain to adults and not to young learners. Therefore the CEF scale had to be revised with respect to the communicative activities and to the cognitive development of children. The outcome of these adjustments was a five level scale, ranging from A1 to B2. Levels C1 and C2 were not included inasmuch as they pertained clearly to adult activities and skills. Furthermore, a preliminary stage was established, in order to accommodate younger children of the first grade, who do not know how to read and write, and, therefore, could not fill up the entire test.

The objective of the language tests was not to examine whether children meet the requirements of a single stage of proficiency but to place each child at a certain level in the CEF scale. Therefore, they encompass a range of levels of proficiency, which is materialized into a variety of tasks of increasing difficulty and complexity. Tests were supplemented by a questionnaire, whose purpose was to collect data on individual and social factors that could have a bearing on the children’s learning of Greek.

The tests were administered to a representative group of 252 pupils, including children of all ages, boys and girls, pupils from urban areas and villages and pupils having Turkish, Pomak or Romany as their home language. The whole procedure was monitored by the test developers. Out of these 252 pupils, a representative sample of 120 was interviewed.

All scores were introduced item by item to a database, together with some information for each child, taken form the questionnaire. Total scores and classification to levels of proficiency was generated by the database. The scores together with the social and sociolinguistic information included in the database enabled us to investigate the possible connections between levels of proficiency and various social and individual parameters. Furthermore, written and spoken stories produced by the children were transcribed within the CHILDES system and formed an extensive corpus of Greek L2 learners’ texts. Part of this corpus is coded by researchers of second language acquisition for the purpose of individual studies of the acquisition of Greek L2.

The detailed method of the testing procedure, as well as the results of the language research project are described in:

Tzevelekou, M., S. Stamouli, V. Kantzou, G. Papageorgakopoulos, V. Chondrogianni, S. Varlokosta, M. Iakovou, V. Lytra. 2008.  Greek L2: European Framework for Language Assessment and assessing language proficiency in Greek. In T. Dragona & A. Fragoudaki (Eds.). Addition, not Subtraction, Multiplication, not Division: The educational reform of the minority of Thrace. Athens: Metechmio, 155-174 [in Greek]

Tzevelekou, M., V. Kantzou, S. Stamouli, S. Varlokosta, V. Chondrogianni, G. Papageorgakopoulos, V. Lytra & M. Iakovou 2004. Greek L2: Assessing language proficiency in Greek of the children attending minority schools of ThraceFinal report to the Education of the Muslim Minority Children Programme. [in Greek]

Tzevelekou, M., V. Kantzou, S. Stamouli, S. Varlokosta, G. Papageorgakopoulos, V. Lytra, M. Iakovou & V. Chondrogianni,  «Proficiency in Greek of the children attending Greek-Turkish bilingual minority schools of Western Thrace», ALTE 2nd International ConferenceLanguage Assessment in a Multilingual Context –Attaining Standards, Sustaining Diversity, Berlin, 19-21 May 2005,