ECL examination system developed at the Foreign Language Centre of the University of Pécs (UP) has played an important role in familiarising the world with the Hungarian language and culture.
The Hungarian language exam integrated in the internationally known language examination system is pivotal for Hungarian diasporas, as it has an important role in preserving the linguistic identity of Hungarians living far from the motherland by helping them experience and preserve Hungarian cultural heritage. The exam as an external assessment tool is essential for motivating children and youngsters living in diasporas to preserve, learn, and speak their heritage language and thus maintain their Hungarian identity.
Passing the language exam can give young Hungarians living in diasporas the opportunity to study at a Hungarian university. In addition to this, the exam can help and motivate foreigners wanting to learn about Hungarian culture, history, and economy to learn the Hungarian language. Thus, holding a Hungarian language exam certificate, they can authentically experience Hungarian values. Furthermore, in line with the internationalisation efforts of Hungarian universities, the exam can motivate foreign students to pursue their studies in Hungary.
Similarly to the German Goethe language exam and other exams of a country’s official language, the Hungarian language exam is also a mediator of language and culture in international mobility programmes, thus strengthening the international position and presence of the Hungarian language.
In countries, where a language exam taken in a heritage language earns students extra points in secondary and higher education, this language exam is listed as a recognised external language exam. For instance, in many states of the USA, a biliteracy seal award is given to students having attained proficiency in two or more languages, and a similar policy exists in Germany too.
Renowned language assessment and testing experts, applied linguists, Hungarologists, as well as professors and researchers at various departments and institutes of the University of Pécs have contributed to the development of the ECL language exam system. Today, several studies, papers, and conference presentations have reported the results of language testing and assessment research conducted by the Ars Linguae research team of the UP Foreign Language Centre.
The high quality of the ECL language exams is evidenced by the fact that it has become a full member of the Cambridge based Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE), focusing on European language assessment. The ECL system passed an audit examining the professionalism and fairness of the exam system (the so called “examination of the examination”). Membership requires compliance with the strict requirements of an audit examining every step of test development and exam organisation. The examination system passed the audit with flying colours.
The number of foreign exam sites organising Hungarian as a foreign language exams increases every year – the Hungarian exam can be taken in languages schools, university departments, evening schools in many parts of the world from Australia to the USA, and from Beijing to London. In the past years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has encouraged Hungarian cultural institutions abroad to become ECL exam sites for Hungarian language exams. Although the mother tongue of applicants is diverse, a distinct trend does emerge: a large population of the test takers (16%) speak a Slavic language as a mother tongue, German speakers make up another distinct population (12%), and Chinese and English speaking test takers comprise another distinct population (9%) – just to mention the largest student populations.
Experts of the university are responsible for the professional and administrative management of the examination system. Therefore, it is no surprise that the ECL language system is intertwined with the name of Pécs. The exam can be taken at hundreds of sites across Europe, and the number of exam sites is especially large in territories with Hungarian diasporas in neighbouring countries. The centre of the internationally recognised ECL language exam system is in Pécs where test developers are selected, trained, and retrained. To become an oral examiner, a 30-lesson accredited course is to be completed followed by an online course for further training. The exam centre is accessible for disabled people, as well.
There are over a hundred qualified and active ECL Hungarian language examiners worldwide.