Modern Language Aptitude Test-Elementary Version

The Modern Language Aptitude Test – Elementary (MLAT-E) was developed by John Carroll and Stanley Sapon for the purpose of measuring the language aptitude of children in grades 3 – 6. The MLAT-E will help teachers determine a child’s readiness to learn a foreign language and to identify the children with a special talent or “ear for language”. If a child has difficulty in language learning, the MLAT-E may provide the teacher with information of diagnostic value.

Frequently Asked Questions – And Answers

What are some possible uses of the MLAT-E?
  • Seeing how your students perform relative to national norms.
  • Developing local norms and developing uses for the scores after norms are established.
  • Creating “expectancy tables” to show the relationship between language aptitude scores and grades in foreign language classes.
  • Helping to identify “foreign language learning disabled” students.
  • Helping to understand why a child is progressing slowly in learning a foreign language.
  • Helping to identify gifted students.
  • Developing profiles of strengths and weaknesses for all students to inform learning/teaching.
Is the MLAT-E easy to administer?

The MLAT-E is readily administered because nearly all of the instructions are on the recording.  The timing of the test is also automatically controlled by the recording, thus leaving the teacher free to proctor the test.  The test takes approximately 60 minutes to administer.

The completed MLAT-E is hand-score using the Hand-Scoring Stencil Set, a set of transparencies indicating the correct responses on each page of the test booklet.  The score for each part is the number of correct responses and no deductions are made for errors or omissions.

When should the test be given and to what age groups?

The MLAT-E will be most useful for talent identification, placement, or guidance if given before or at the time children begin the study of a foreign language.  However, the MLAT-E also provides helpful information about the basic language learning abilities of pupils who may already have received foreign language instruction. It appears that language training does not ordinarily affect scores on the MLAT-E, for the type of content included in the test is not ordinarily included in foreign language courses.

Although primarily intended for grades 3 – 6, the MLAT-E can also be given to children near the end of grade 2 or to children in grade 7. However, norms for those levels are not available.

How is the MLAT-E used for selection?

The MLAT-E will help identify children who show promise of rapid learning and the likelihood of attaining a higher level of proficiency. Children with superior talent may well be offered foreign language instruction earlier than others.

It is inappropriate to use the MLAT-E 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.

How is the MLAT-E used for placement?

In schools where it is the practice to offer foreign language instruction to all children at given grade levels, the MLAT-E is useful for placement. If the number of pupils is large enough to justify more than one class or section, children may be grouped according to aptitude level so that the members of any one group may work together and progress at about the same rate.

How is the MLAT-E used for guidance?

MLAT-E scores may be used by teachers and guidance counselors to estimate the child’s aptitude for foreign language learning. The MLAT-E measures the child’s aptitude or ability; his or her interest or motivation must be appraised separately.

So far as is known, a child’s aptitude for learning one language is about the same as his or her aptitude for learning any other language. The fact that pupils sometimes show different degrees of success in different languages is probably to be accounted for by differences in motivation and interest, in teaching methods, and in other factors not related to basic aptitude. With MLAT-E scores at hand, the counselor can more readily determine whether a language learning problem is due to lack of basic aptitude or to other factors.

What is a language learning disability, and how can the MLAT-E be used in diagnosing one?

A language learning disability may be defined as low aptitude for learning languages in comparison with the student’s aptitude for learning other subjects. It is usually established by administering a battery of tests, including a language aptitude test such as the MLAT-E, MLAT, or PLAB, and examining the pattern of scores. If the student shows normal aptitude for other school subjects but much lower aptitude on measures relating to language, then evidence of a weakness or disability in language aptitude is established. Another aspect of such an assessment is to examine the student’s performance in different subjects. If the student does well in other subjects but poorly in language, then this provides further evidence of a substantial discrepancy in his or her abilities.

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.

The MLAT-E can be used in developing a history of difficulty in learning foreign languages. For example, a school psychologist who is doing a diagnostic evaluation of a student who is progressing slowly in foreign language classes could use test results from the MLAT-E in conjunction with input from FL teachers and data from progress in language courses to help establish a diagnosis of a foreign language learning disability. Ideally, the MLAT-E would be administered when the student was in grade school, the PLAB would be administered at the junior high level, and the MLAT would be administered at a future point, such as when the student was applying for college, or in the first year of university studies and facing a language requirement. Consistently poor performances on these tests over the years would strongly support the case for a language learning disability. It is especially important that such diagnoses be accurate and credible, because other special services and accommodations may be contingent on their outcome.

To read two articles at LD Online about foreign language learning disabilities, 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

What materials should I order?

Each examinee requires a test booklet (consumable – examinees mark their answers directly in the test booklet) and a score report. Administration of the test requires the test manual, cassette tape or CD, and a hand-scoring stencil for scoring the answer sheet. Most materials are sold separately, but a Specimen Set (includes Administrator’s Manual, one Test Booklet and one Score Report) can be purchased to preview the materials. Due to the nature of the product, ALL SALES ARE FINAL.

Most psychologists administer the MLAT-E to only one person at a time. Thus, they can purchase the administration materials for the test and then test booklets and score reports as needed.
Classroom teachers and researchers normally administer the MLAT-E to groups of people. Thus, they usually purchase test booklets and score reports by the package. If the test is to be administered in different locations, additional test administration materials (one each of Administrator’s Manual, Cassette or CD, and Hand-Scoring Stencil) for every location must be purchased.

MLAT-E Sample Items