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Cultural Bias in Language Testing
Old 19th April 2011, 06:19 PM   #1
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Default Cultural Bias in Language Testing

When language intersects with race/ethnicity, class, and socioeconomic status, larger issues surface.

One universal feature of a culture or subculture is language.

To provide an example of how important language is to culture, the so-called “test” below is a play on how IQ tests are said to be culturally biased. Take the test and see how well you do (answers follow in the next post).

Although test makers are becoming increasingly sensitive, historically, most of our tests were based on white middle-class individuals, and that children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are typically at a disadvantage in taking many of our tests.

After taking the tests, think about the following questions:
  • How successful were you on the test?
  • How did you feel being asked questions that had no relevance to you and to which you may never have been exposed?
  • How might this experience apply to the experiences those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds experience daily?
  • What are the implications for educators regarding standardized testing?
Share your thoughts with us!

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The Original Australian Test of Intelligence

[Source unknown]

These items relate to the culture of the Edward River Community in Far North Queensland
  • What number comes next in the sequence, one, two, three, __________?

  • How many lunar months are in a year?

  • As wallaby is to animal so cigarette is to __________
  • Three of the following items may be classified with salt-water crocodile. Which are they?

    marine turtle brolga frilled lizard black snake (circle your answers)

  • Which items may be classified with sugar?
    honey witchetty grub flour water-lilies (circle your answers)

  • We eat food and we __________ water.
  • Sam, Ben and Harry are sitting together. Sam faces Ben and Ben gives him a cigarette. Harry sits quietly with his back to both Ben and Sam and contributes nothing to the animated conversation going on between Sam and Ben. One of the men is Ben's brother, the other is Ben's sister's child. Who is the nephew?

    a. Sam b. Harry c. Ben (circle your answer)

  • Suppose your brother in his mid-forties dies unexpectedly. Would you attribute his death to (circle your answer):

    a. God b. Fate c. Germs D. No-one e. Someone f. Your brother himself

  • You are out in the bush with your wife and young children and you are all hungry. You have a rifle and bullets. You see three animals all within range - a young emu, a large kangaroo and a small female wallaby. Which should you shoot for food?

    a. Young emu b. Large kangaroo c. Small female wallaby (circle your answer)

  • Why should you be careful of your cousins?
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Scoring Sheet: Original Australian Test of Intelligence
Old 19th April 2011, 06:20 PM   #2
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Default Scoring Sheet: Original Australian Test of Intelligence

Scoring Sheet: Original Australian Test of Intelligence

  • One, two, three, many....the kuuk thaayorre system of counting only goes to three...thana, kuthir, pinalam, mong, mong, mong, etc. The word mong is best translated as "many" since it can mean any number between 4 and 9 or 10 after which yuur mong (many figures) would be more appropriate.

  • Those who say thirteen are right in European terms but irrelevant in Edward River terms. The speakers of kuuk thaayorre clearly recognise lunar menstruation and possess a notion of the lunar month as calculated as the time between one phase of the moon and the next appearance of that particular phase. However, apart from having no specific word to designate thirteen and thirteen only - yurr mong or "very many", is the right answer - the annual cycle is crouched in terms of environmental rhythms rather than in terms of fixed, invariant divisions of time. The "year" then is the time between the onset of one wet season and the onset of the next wet season - and wet seasons may be early or late, so who can be precise?
  • The right answer is "tree". This stems from the kuuk thaayorre speakers early experience with tobacco which was "stick" tobacco, hence it is classified with tree.
  • Crocodiles, turtles, birds and frill necked lizards are all classified as minh (which broadly might be translated as animals). Snakes along with eels are classified as yak which may be broadly translated as snake-like creatures.
  • All the items are classified with sugar as belong to the class of objects known as may. Broadly translated, may means vegetable food. Even witchetty grubs that are found in the roots of trees fall under this rubric - so does honey which is also associated with trees and hence fruit. The kuuk thaayorre language had no problem fitting flour into the may category since it obviously resembled some of their own processed vegetable foods (e.g., yams like Dioscoria sativa elongata). The word may can also mean sweet and hence sugar, which of course does not resemble anything in their traditional culinary.
  • "Eat" is the right word - well sort of, anyway. Where we make a distinction between "eating" and "drinking", kuuk thaayorre does not and they use the same verb to describe both functions and why not?
  • The clues are easy for kuuk thaayorre. An avoidance taboo operates between mother's brother and sister's son and politeness requires that sister's son should never directly face mother's brother nor talk to him directly in company. Sam and Ben are obviously brothers because of their unrestrained interaction while Harry, with his back turned to both his uncles is obviously the respectful nephew.
  • Among the kuuk thaayorre God has been equated with a mythological character and he is definitely non-malevolent. Both fate and germs are concepts foreign to the kuuk thaayorre belief system. No-one dies without reason and suicide is unknown to them, so the right answer is SOMEONE - which is the case in this sorcery riddled society.
  • The small female wallaby is the right answer. Emu is a food that may be consumed only by very old people. Kangaroos (especially large ones) may not be eaten by parents or their children. The children will get sick otherwise. Everyone knows that....don't they?
  • Because some of them have to be avoided like the plague. For example, a male must avoid his father's sister's daughter, or anyone classified with her. Such relations are called poison cousins in Aboriginal English.
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