Sunday, July 13, 2008

Speaking Proficiency Level

Most language teachers and learners don’t know about speaking proficiency level. Once, I encountered a student who was very upset because I gave him mid intermediate level in speaking. Most of his language teachers considered his speaking level as advanced. I felt guilty at the same time felt sorry for the student; he seemed very disappointed.
I just don’t know how teachers based their speaking proficiency level. I think, some language teachers or tutors are not just aware of the standard definition of proficiency level. I came across with this ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Proficiency Level Guidelines when I was studying English Language Teaching. Its set of standard is continuously studied, researched, re-evaluated and improved since 1986.
Below are ACTFL generic speaking descriptions. Thus, if ever students ask about their speaking level just check on which level he/she falls.
Low Beginners-Can't produce a sentence. However, if guided by questions, they can produce common words, tell name or exchange greeting.
Mid Beginners-It takes time for them to produce a simple sentence. They are out of words, and still commit grammatical errors. Moreover, they still can’t respond correctly to question.
High Beginners-They can talk about topics that are familiar to them. However, their sentences are short and erroneous.
Lower Intermediates-They can ask and answer questions about activities and family. They also know how to use languages in ordering foods and making purchases.
Mid Intermediates-They can talk about basic topics and could talk about topics beyond their basic needs. They can make longer sentences; however, their sentences are still erroneous. There is till long pauses between sentences and pronunciation is still influenced by first language.
High Intermediates. They can initiate simple conversations. Their interlocutor could understand them better. But still, they have limited vocabulary.
Advanced- They can participate meaningfully in a conversation. They can make paragraph-length utterances. They can also narrate and describe events. Native speaker can understand them well.
 I just hope that all Language Institutions will use a universal speaking proficiency guideline to be able to assess language learners better. Moreover, using a universal speaking proficiency description could help language learners gauge their learning progress.

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