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Empirical data that indicate a discrepancy between perceptions and scores on English tests among South African participants (1998-2011) are reported. A discrepancy between perceptions of English proficiency and scores on English tests is important because of its potential impact on language learner motivation. It will be shown that inflated self-perceptions of English proficiency result in the discrepancy between perceptions of English proficiency and scores on English proficiency tests. Three explanations are offered for inflated perceptions of English proficiency. Firstly, it is argued that the multilingual identities of the respondents provide some understanding of inflated perceptions of English proficiency. Secondly, it is maintained that there are different conceptions of proficiency at work. Thirdly, resilience reported for African youth at a macro level is considered as contributing factor that results in inflated perceptions of English proficiency. The pedagogical implications of these explanations result in a proposed “multilingual awareness pedagogy” embedded in Dörnyei’s (2009) L2 Motivational Self System theory.
Key words: self-reported perceptions, language proficiency, English proficiency, multilingualism, pedagogy, resilience, L2 Motivational Self System