Original Research

Innovation and reciprocity in applied linguistics

Albert Weideman
Literator | Vol 35, No 1 | a1074 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v35i1.1074 | © 2014 Albert Weideman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 August 2013 | Published: 20 March 2014

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Albert Weideman, Department of Linguistics and Language Practice, University of the Free State, South Africa; Inter-Institutional Centre for Language Development and Assessment (ICELDA), South Africa

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Applied linguistics is a discipline of design: it solves language problems by suggesting a plan, or blueprint, to handle them. These designs are sometimes promoted as highly innovative. Yet, are innovative language courses and tests in all respects truly new? This article will argue that most historically significant turning points in applied linguistic design demonstrate continuity with previously designed solutions. This was so for communicative teaching as well as for audio-lingualism. In testing, both interactive designs and socially responsible concerns have built on the past. Like innovation, reciprocity in design in applied linguistics is a foundational issue. How much reciprocity is there in the realms of language testing, language course design and language policy making? Why do we not explicitly check whether the design of a course should be as responsibly and carefully done as a test? How can we learn more from language policy development about making tests more accessible and accountable? What can test designers learn from course developers about specificity? There are many useful questions that we never seem to ask. The article will look across different levels of applied linguistic artefacts (language courses, language tests and language policies) at how we can enrich the principles of responsible design. We can continue to be surprised by innovation in the designed solutions that our profession provides, but we should also work on our understanding of what constitutes a responsible design framework. That foundation enables us to evaluate both the fleeting and the enduring in the new.


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