Book review: Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society: Transition and Transformation


Alan Urmston

Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
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“The analyses of academic language use and its assessment in the multilingual society that is South Africa are very well presented in this book and it will be of great interest to those within this particular context and to others with similar educational and demographic structures.
“Despite slight concerns about potential limitations in its appeal, given its focus specifically on the South African context, Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society is very well compiled and the individual chapters so well written that the book is still a valuable addition to the literature on the assessment of academic literacy. Its extensive and thought-provoking coverage of the issues faced by education systems, institutions and individual within them will serve as a valuable resource as they plan the road ahead in this rapidly changing field. The collection will also be a useful model for novice researchers in how to present relatively complex research in a reader-friendly way.”


Bachman, L. F., & Palmer, A. S. (1996). Language testing in practice: Designing and developing useful language tests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Weideman, A. (2003). Assessing and developing academic literacy. Per Linguam, 19(1 & 2), 55-65.
Weideman, A. (2007). Academic literacy: Prepare to learn (2nd ed.). Pretoria: Van Schaik


Urmston, Alan. 2021. Book review: ISBN-13: 978-1-78892-620-1. Assessing Academic Literacy in a Multilingual Society: Transition and Transformation. Albert Weideman, John Read, Theo Du Plessis (Eds.), Multilingual Matters, Bristol (2021), p. xx, E book: UK£25.00/US$40.00. Journal of English for Academic Purposes. DOI: [in press, corrected proof).


What is academic literacy and how can it best be measured? The authors of this excellent edited collection draw on 20+ years of research and practice to highlight the challenges involved in assessing the language and literacy needs of students destined for university education in multilingual South Africa. Their insights will resonate with academics and educators around the world catering for increasingly diverse student populations.

Catherine Elder, University of Melbourne, Australia

This invaluable collection of engaging chapters is a must-read for practitioners, graduate students, and researchers who seek to expand their knowledge of assessment literacy in multilingual societies in and beyond South Africa. The editors’ choice of conceptual foundations of academic literacy assessment at pre-tertiary and tertiary education as the themes of the volume is timely and insightful.

Vahid Aryadoust, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Language ability, language assessment to determine ability levels, and improving academic literacy in a multilingual tertiary context are complex issues. This book establishes what all these actually comprise. The quality of the work and the standing of the contributors combine to give us an informed view of this exciting and developing field in South Africa. Read and enjoy!

Wannie Carstens, North-West University, South Africa