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The Cognitive Ability for Novelty in Acquisition of Language - Foreign (CANAL-F) is a test measuring language aptitude, or whether and how well a person can learn a second language. It was developed by Grigorenko, Sternberg, and Ehrman in 2000,[1] using "acquisition processes" as a theoretical base.[2] This is a completely new approach to the concept of language aptitude.[3] The test uses an artificially-constructed language called Ursulu to test for language aptitude.


CANAL-F was developed as an alternative to another aptitude test, the Modern Language Aptitude Test (MLAT).[4] The MLAT is strongly associated with a language teaching methodology known as the audiolingual method, largely popular in the 1960s and characterized by repetitive drills. The audiolingual method fell out of vogue in the 1970s, and because of this many of the instruments associated with it, such as the MLAT, also lost favour. The MLAT, while used successfully in a number and variety of different contexts, does not reflect the latest thinking in how language is acquired, developed and maintained in the mind of the learner, so a new tool was desired which could better test the revised theories of language, especially insofar as cognitive theory is concerned.[5]

Organizing Principles[edit]

While based on Carroll's theoretical work, the CANAL-F takes a slightly different approach to assessing foreign language aptitude. The test aims to measure:

  • ability for acquiring vocabulary,
  • comprehending extended texts,
  • extracting grammatical rules and
  • making semantic inferences

all in the context of the major underlying feature of language aptitude being an ability for the learner to cope with novelty and ambiguity.[4]


Rod Ellis points out that despite CANAL-F using a new formulation of language aptitude as its base, the results it gets are very similar to those of the MLAT. He says, however, that one advantage of CANAL-F is that it "does afford the possibility of achieving a closer match between specific aptitudes and specific psycholinguistic processes".[3]


  1. ^ Grigorenko, Sternberg & Ehrman 2000.
  2. ^ Grigorenko, Sternberg & Ehrman 2000, cited in Ellis 2008, pp. 655–656.
  3. ^ a b Ellis 2008, pp. 655–656.
  4. ^ a b Ranta 2008, p. 143.
  5. ^ Ranta 2008, p. 142–143.


  • Ellis, Rod (2008). The Study of Second Language Acquisition (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 655–656. ISBN 978-0-19-442257-4. 
  • Grigorenko, E. L.; Sternberg, R. J.; Ehrman, M. E. (2000). "A Theory-Based Approach to the Measurement of Foreign Language Learning Ability: The Canal-F Theory and Test". The Modern Language Journal. 84 (3): 390. doi:10.1111/0026-7902.00076. 
  • Ranta, Leila (2008). "Aptitude and good language learners". In Griffiths, Carol. Lessons from Good Language Learners. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 142–155. ISBN 978-0-521-71814-1.