ETS head Amit Sevak took to Duolingo’s hometown newspaper (The Pittsburgh Tribune) to level some criticisms at the popular app and related language test. For instance:

“Learning a new language is one of the most valuable skills one can learn. We owe it to the next generation to help them measure and evaluate their progress the right way. Because when the bar for evaluating proficiency is too low, students are set up to fail. We’re already seeing examples of this in UK university admissions — students who chose to submit their Duolingo English test scores as proof of English proficiency were performing worse than their peers.

Language education cannot become a race to the bottom. The goal shouldn’t be to make sure everyone can order a beer in multiple languages. We need to make sure people have effectively learned the language of the classroom and the office so they can succeed in global settings.”

And later:

“While other English-language assessments may be less expensive or easier to pass, do we really want to lower the bar for something as fundamental as the English language?”

It seems like a reasonable argument. I have my doubts about the validity of some language tests. Not just the Duolingo Test.

On the other hand, Mrs. Goodine is a paid-up subscriber to the Duolingo app and she seems to really like it.

Look for Duolingo’s response in the Lawrence Township Pennysaver sometime next week.

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