This paper reports from an on-going study on interaction in oral proficiency tests in the national exam in Swedish for Adult Immigrants. The main data consists of video recorded paired speaking tests (a candidate-candidate discussion) in the final National test (B1/B1+ on the CEFR-scale) and interviews with the test takers. The aim is to investigate speaking tests as a social practice. The findings of an interactional analysis of the paired speaking tests show how language testing is not a neutral activity, which can be observed by the ideologies performed in the interaction during the speaking tests.
From the point of view of testing bodies, providing valid, fair and reliable test is a main concern, and this has for a long time been the focus of much language testing research. This “practical focus” (McNamara 2012, p.564) has been criticized for not recognizing language testing as a social and political practice (e.g. McNamara 2011, Shohamy 2013).One way of investigating language tests as a social practice is to examine the embedded ideologies in testing practices (Spotti 2011). The context of Swedish for Adult Immigrants is a highly multilingual and diverse setting. Yet, a monolingual norm is manifested in the speaking test by the candidates themselves. This is not a coincidence, this monolingual norm can be found in testing practice (Shohamy 2011), the educational system (Blackledge & Creese 2010) and in the society as a whole (Kroskrity 2000).
In this paper, I will argue that Goffmans (1959) notion of performance and Bakthins (1986) notion of addressitivity offers interesting perspectives for the understanding of speaking tests as a social practice. Language learning in migration contexts are intertwined with political discourses concerning national identity and integration policies (Blackledge & Creese 2010). The interaction in the speaking tests in this study reveals an ongoing dialogue with monolingual ideologies in society.