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DLI launches new DLPT generation-DLPT 5: measuring language capabilities in the 21st century.

Reprinted from the Defense Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) website:

Monterey, June 6, 2005--The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC)in Monterey, California, in partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD), is about to launch the newest generation of the Defense Language Proficiency Test: DLPT 5. This system of tests, administered via computer, will gradually be implemented in as many as 31 languages over the next several years, say DLI and DOD testing experts.

The new DLPT 5 tests consist of computer delivered exams designed to assess the general language proficiency in reading and listening of native English speakers who have learned a foreign language. The tests are meant to measure how well a person can function in real-life situations in a foreign language according to well-defined linguistic tasks and assessment criteria.

"This method of assessing our foreign language capability is much more comprehensive, effective, and reliable than our previous foreign language testing efforts ..." said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Dr. David S. Chu, in a DOD memorandum, issued 31 January 2005.

The main difference that examinees will notice between the DLPT IV and DLPT 5 is that the new tests have longer passages and may have more than one question per passage, in both listening and reading comprehension. When a reading passage is particularly long, one has to scroll downward to view all the text and questions. Just like the DLPT IV, the DLPT 5 scores are based on the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) guidelines, found at and test levels 0+ through 3.

For many languages the new DLPT 5 tests will also offer exams constructed to test proficiency levels from ILR level 3 through level 4, which will be used by select DOD agencies needing to assess language specialists at higher levels of proficiency.

Depending on the language, the DLPT 5 will have two different testing formats: Multiple Choice (MC) and the Constructed Response Test (CRT), in which examinees will type in short answers to the questions. The CRTs will be given in the less commonly taught languages, such as Hindi Dari, Pashto, and Albanian. Languages such as Russian, Arabic, Korean, Chinese, etc., will be tested in the MC test format. Figure 1 depicts a sample of the MC test format.


The listening portion of both the MC and CRT tests will be composed of more authentic materials than in the past. Test developers have incorporated live radio and television broadcasts, telephone conversations, and voice mail as listening materials. In MC tests, examinees will listen to the passage only once for lower level questions, while questions at level 2 and above will be played twice. In CRT tests, all passages are played twice. The listening tests are expected to last approximately two hours. See Figure 2 for a print screen sample of the multiple choice listening comprehension.


"People in the field are not going to slow down for your benefit," said Dr. Mika Hoffman, the dean of Test Development at DLIFLC, in reference to the change in the quality of the listening materials used on the test. Dr. Hoffman said that there may be static and background noise in some audio passages, just as in any outdoor public place.

The text types used are authentic sources: announcements and advertisements, phone calls, voicemail messages, news (print, TV, and radio), editorials, commentary, speeches, interviews, talk shows, debates, lectures, plays, TV series, and the like.

Content areas on the test are the same as previously used in the old paper-and-pencil DLPTs: military-security, science-technology, economic-political, cultural-social, and geography.

To prepare for the new exam, DLI test developers suggest that future examinees need to be exposed to authentic materials found on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines, ali of which can be accessed through the Internet. DLI has also developed an Internet site called and Global Language Online Support System (GLOSS), where materials and exercises in various languages are available, as well as texts in English on the geography and politics of the given nations. See Figure 3 for a print screen of the LingNet Homepage.


Experts recommend that examinees need to "Go beyond translation and think about what the writer or speaker really means," a notion which is continuously stressed by DLI instructors and Military Language Instructors (MLI)in the classrooms.

"They (students) need to develop a cultural literacy which will enable them to not only read "between the lines," but also to anticipate what lies ahead because they will understand how people "tick" in a particular country," said DLI Assistant Commandant, Colonel Daniel Scott.

Some of the technical aspects of delivering the test via computer will actually enhance the examinees' ability to keep track of their responses and time left until the end of the test, and provide the examinees with the ability to return to questions left blank due to uncertainty. See Figure 4 for a print screen of the review answers.


Further down the road DLI test and software developers are working toward a computer adaptive design for future DLPTs with the ability to scramble questions or even change any given text. Test developers say that there will no longer be a need for an A and B version of the exam, as they will be able to generate forms randomly. Consequently, the linguists will not be familiar with the test items from year-to-year.

Once the new DLPT 5 tests are implemented in the field, the DLI will convert the remaining older proficiency tests to the new computer format. Likewise, the Office of the Secretary of Defense is pushing to have all testing administered via computer in order to move away from the paper-and-pencil standard, according to COL Scott.

Tentative rollout dates for the DLPT 5 are the following:

* Available in October 2005: Albanian, Persian-Dari, Hindi, Pashto, Norwegian, and Urdu.

* Available in December 2005: Iraqi and Russian.

* Available in the first half of 2006: Chinese and Spanish.

* Other languages soon to be available: Egyptian, Levantine, Modern Standard Arabic, Persian-Farsi, Greek, Kurdish-Sorani, Turkish, Serbian-Croatian, and Japanese.

For more information on the rollout dates and Frequently Asked Questions, please visit mil and click on DLPT 5 under the Navigation links.

Ms Natela A. Cutter is the Director fur Alumni Relations Office at the Defers, se Language Institute. Presidio of Monterey. California. Readers may contact her via E-mail at Natela. or by telephone at 831-242-7041 (Commercial) or 768-7041 (DSN).
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Title Annotation:Defense Language Institute; Defense Language Proficiency Test
Author:Cutter, Natela A.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Article Type:Reprint
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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