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Linguistical Errors

The Houston Chronicle recently did a story about the Texas Assessment of Knowledge of Skills (TAKS) test, which contains more and more questions written in Spanish, not simply translated from English. It’s a good story, one that shows some appreciation for the difference between languages as a cultural one, not just a linguistic one.

Yet what caught my eye was this quote:

“If you’re going to develop a test for a particular population, it should be developed and normed on the language that population speaks,” said Angela Valenzuela, a professor in education at the University of Texas at Austin. “When it’s not done that way, you really can’t separate out linguistical errors from academic errors.”

The word “linguistical” isn’t actually a word. Or, not much of one: it gets all of 168 Google hits, one of which is Valenzuela’s quote. The others appear to be ironic or written by non-native English speakers. Either Valenzuela was misquoted (by a writer who appeared to get so much other stuff right), or we have to say it’s notable that the education professor, heralding a new sensitivity toward Spanish speakers, flubbed a word, an English word, and an English word about words. You’d think the reporter would extend the courtesy of cleaning the quote.

To compound the goofiness, I first read her quote in an emailed summary of UT professors in the news, which misquoted her:

“If you’re going to develop a test for a particular population, it should be developed and normed on the language that population speaks,” said Angela Valenzuela, an associate professor in education and Mexican-American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. “When it’s not done that way, you really can’t separate out linguistical errors from language errors.”

(But based on the quote in the Chronicle, there’s not much to separate “linguistical” from a language error, is there, Dr. Valenzuela?)