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The following appeared in an article in a college departmental newsletter
“Professor Taylor of Jones University is promoting a model of foreign language
instruction in which students receive ten weeks of intensive training, then go
abroad to live with families for ten weeks. The superiority of the model, Professor
Taylor contends, is proved by the results of a study in which foreign language tests
given to students at 25 other colleges show that first-year foreign language students
at Jones speak more fluently after only ten to twenty weeks in the program than do
nine out of ten foreign language majors elsewhere at the time of their graduation.”
Discuss how well reasoned... etc.
This newsletter article claims that Professor Taylor’s foreign-language program at Jones University is a model of foreign language
instruction. This conclusion is based on a study in which foreign language tests were given to students at 25 other universities. The study
shows that first-year language students at Jones speak more fluently after just 10 to 20 weeks in the program than do 90 percent of
foreign-language majors at other colleges at graduation. Despite these impressive statistics, I am unconvinced by this argument for two
To begin with, the assumption here is that students from Professor Taylor’s program have learned more than foreign language students
at other universities. However, we are not given enough information about the study to be sure that this comparison is reliable. For
example, the article does not tell us whether the foreign language students at Jones were given the tests; it only reports that the tests
in question were “given to students at 25 other colleges.” If Jones students were not tested, then no basis exists for comparing them to
students at the other universities. In addition, the article does not indicate whether students at all the universities, including Jones, were
given the same tests. If not, then again no basis exists for the comparison.
Furthermore, we cannot tell from this article whether the universities in the study, or their students, are comparable in other ways. For
instance, Jones might be a prestigious university that draws its students from the top echelon of high school graduates, while the other
universities are lower-ranked schools with more lenient admission requirements. In this event, the study wouldn’t tell us much about
Professor Taylor’s program, for the proficiency of his students might be a function of their superior talent and intelligence.
Page numbers AWA
In conclusion, the statistics cited in the article offer little support for the claim about Taylor’s program. To strengthen the argument, the
author must show that the universities in the study, including Jones, were comparable in other ways, that their foreign language students
were tested identically, and that Taylor’s program was the only important difference between students tested at Jones and those tested
at the other universities.