A foreign language test system was introduced in Shanghai yesterday to help people seeking employment with international companies demonstrate their proficiency.
The Oral Proficient Interview computer system (OPIc), developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), currently covers 13 languages and five of them, English, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish, are now available in China.
“The system was introduced to China because it contains evaluation tests for multiple languages, rather than a single language like other tests,” said Li Peize, president of the Beijing-based Chinese Testing International of the Confucius Institute. “It was designed by more than 10,000 language experts around the world.”
More languages are being added regularly as the one-on-one interview system includes nearly 120 languages.
The system was brought to China by Chinese Testing International and the stated-owned human resources agency China International Intellectech (Shanghai) Corp.
“At CIIC, language skills are an important element in evaluating talent,” said Xu Qin, director of the company’s international educational training center. “And by introducing the system, we wish to better serve our clients by providing them with professionals with excellent language skills.”
The interactive oral test begins with a 20-minute background survey that enables the system to select pre-recorded questions to customize the 40-minute tests for examinees, the difficulty of which can be adjusted. Their answers are recorded in the system and then evaluated by experienced language professionals.
“The questions on the test are based on real-life and work scenarios and are therefore more application-oriented,” Li said.
The 11 different evaluation levels range from “novice low” to “distinguished,” but the highest level is rarely achieved.
The OPIc test is recognized as a qualification for some posts by more than 3,000 companies around the world, including Samsung, LG, NASA, eBay and Paypal, according to Gabriel Cruz, vice president of global business development at ACTFL’s Language Testing International.
Some learning institutions recognize the scores and will accept them as transferable credits. About 500,000 people take the test every year in the US and South Korea, and ACTFL sees China as a promising market, said Cruz.
“We’ve spent a long time working with CTI and looking at the market in China,” he said. “And we feel there is an opportunity in China.”
He added: “We’ve done a number of different projections and all say that the market is promising, as there is continuous improvement of English and other foreign languages in China.”
Kiseok Lim, from Samsung, said the company has been using the OPIc since 2007 for recruiting new employees, assessing foreign staff and deciding who to promote.
“Only 30 percent of Samsung’s employees are Korean and we need multiple languages in internal communications,” Lim said. “That’s why we decided to introduce the system in 2006 and put it into use the next year.”
He added: “It’s now the only way we do foreign language assessment in our company and anyone who seeks promotion needs to provide the OPIc score.”
He also said that 1.5 million Korean employees of about 1,600 Korean companies have taken the tests over the past 10 years.
The tests were given on a trial basis last month in Suzhou and Wuxi in Jiangsu Province, and a formal test will be held on August 26 in Harbin in Heilongjiang Province.
The schedule for tests in Shanghai has not yet been announced.
For more information about the tests, go to www.chinesetest.cn/opic.do.