It is increasingly acknowledged that English is the nearest to an international language that the world has ever had . In many countries it is widely used in commerce, and corporations often specify English language skills as a condition of employment. English is also widely used in mass media: for example, radio and television networks such as the BBC and CNN broadcast international news in English on a daily basis. It is thus not surprising that English has become prominent in education; students throughout the world spend an increasing amount of time learning the language. This increased attention to English has been accompanied by a concern about how non-native learners' knowledge and skills might be best assessed.