Corporations and missionary organizations also use language aptitude tests for selection and placement. A language aptitude test can help a company or missionary organization assign an individual to a language of appropriate difficulty, and then use the results of the language aptitude test to estimate how much training to provide before assigning the individual to the field in a non-English speaking country. If an individual scores highly on a language aptitude test, then they will not take as long as an individual with a lower score to reach a certain proficiency in a new language.
Elementary schools, intermediate schools, middle schools, high schools, private schools and institutions of higher learning can also use language aptitude tests for placement. If a language program has more than one class, schools can use language aptitude test scores to place students in the appropriate classroom or section. Students with high language aptitude will be able to learn a language at a quicker pace while students with lower language aptitude can be placed in a class that moves at a slower pace or that is taught via different methods, so that they will be better able to absorb the material. It is inappropriate to use language aptitude tests to screen a student out of a language course that the child wants to take. Given good instructional support, plus enough time and exposure, virtually all children can learn a foreign language. Furthermore, any child can benefit from foreign language study.
Educational institutions deal with a diagnosed FLLD differently. Sometimes a cognitive-academic disability is defined as an aptitude score below a certain percentile, such as the 20th percentile, the 10th percentile, or the 5th percentile. Whether the cutoff point is made on a case-by-case basis or set for the purpose of establishing a policy for a particular school, the decision must be made by a qualified professional as part of a comprehensive diagnostic procedure. Some schools that have a foreign language requirement will waive the requirement or have the student take a substitute class in anthropology, linguistics or the history of a language in order to fill the foreign language requirement.
Language aptitude tests can also be used to rule out the possibility of a FLLD. If a student exhibits difficulty in learning a foreign language, a low score on a language aptitude test would point towards a language learning disability. However, if the student’s score is average or above-average on the language aptitude test, this would help eliminate the possibility of a foreign language learning disability so that further testing could focus on remediation, making up for voids in necessary educational background, teaching good study habits, etc.
To read two articles at LD Online about foreign language learning disablities, click on the following links:
Learning Disabilities and Foreign Language Learning, by Robin L. Schwartz
Foreign Language Learning and Learning Disabilities: Making the College Transition, by Sally S. Scott and Elaine Manglitz