Fluency in Language: Measure Your Progress
Developing fluency in a language is not always easy. However, learning how to measure your progress makes it much easier to know where you are now and set realistic goals. This video is from a mini-course, but it works as a stand-alone lesson on how to measure your fluency in any language. Check out the video to learn more:
Prefer to read about how to measure your fluency in language? Here’s the transcript:
Buongiorno. Welcome to your second lesson in this course and today we’re going to talk all about tools and scales to measure fluency. Let’s start with some informal tools. These are things that you can do yourself, they’re easy, they’re quick. I realize it’s really easy to measure your fluency or your progress if you are an absolute beginner. The simple answer is no proficiency, nothing. However, I think it’s really important to understand how to measure proficiency and fluency because it’s going to keep you moving forward. It’s going to take everything from a sort of spray and pray approach to something that’s really concrete and it’s going to really turbocharge your results, understanding how to move through the continuum of fluency.
The first one you would’ve seen in our first lesson, and I like to call this the path to fluency. Again, it’s really difficult to see the very top, you’ve got those tiny bubbles, the tiny bubble you can’t even read. You start a language with words and you move through the continuum with longer and longer utterances, longer fluency, more developed language, more complicated language. We talked about that paragraph point being that ACTFL intermediate high level, just about getting into advanced, getting into that real strong paragraph level speech, tests for beginning teachers in a lot of states, test for bilingual teachers in a lot of states. That’s the minimum standard.
Advanced placement program; French, Italian, Spanish. That’s the bench point for you to get a three, which is a passing grade on that test, “passing.” That’s B2 level on the CEFR scale, the European scale, and we’re going to give you some links to all of that and if you don’t remember, don’t worry because you’re going to be getting a workbook in another lesson that’s going to have all of this linked out and ready for you to use.
Another one that I really like to use is, another really informal one is the hand. It’s really simple. Right? While you’re learning a language, you want to move through the hand. One finger, the pinky, for words. Right? Your tiniest finger when you’re just speaking words, and then when you start developing, you can get yourself into phrases. That’s two fingers. Sentences, the three fingers. Paragraphs, and when you get to fluency, extended speech, you’ve got an open palm.
These are broad scales, but I think it’s a good little check-in. If you’ve got some intense time to work on your language skills, think about where you’re starting. Are you starting at phrases, and then put some effort into it? Check yourself out a month later, maybe you’re up to those sentences. Sentences to paragraphs, it’s just another way to help you understand that continuum of fluency and with that understanding, you can help measure yourself to move forward.
A great resource for anybody teaching or learning languages is the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages. If you see here, they have their famous inverted pyramid and look at the very bottom. That novice low. That’s an absolute beginner when you’re just starting to learn words and sounds. You move up through that novice range. You’ve got novice low, novice mid, novice high.
Then, when you move from that novice level, the blue, up into the green level, intermediate. That’s the point where you can start creating with language. You can start making your own phrases and sentences. To get out of that novice level, you’ve got to have enough words and phrases to put together to start creating with language, and whether you did that as you learned your native language just by being immersed in it, living your life, being read to, being around your family, the media, or you memorized a whole bunch of words and phrases, either way, to get out of that novice range and into the intermediate range that’s what you had to do to move through that ranges.
Now, when you move up through the intermediate range, you’re creating more and more and more with language. It’s still halting. It’s still … there’s not a whole lot of ease of expression, but when you get up into that intermediate high level, again, that’s what we talked about. The intermediate high, advanced low, that’s that point that a lot of people would consider fluent.
Move up into advanced high and superior. That’s speaking almost like a native speaker, and then up into distinguished is sort of everything past that. There’s another scale called the international or inner agency rather language round table, and they would consider everything on the pyramid that you’re looking at here. They think in terms of five. Everything that we’re looking at the pyramid here is sort of levels one through three, and then distinguish would be everything levels sort of three, four, and five. Really advanced native-like professor-level language, which doesn’t serve most people at all.
The state of Massachusetts for a teacher from another country would expect them to be at the advanced mid-level. A math teacher from let’s say South Korea or a place that doesn’t speak English or Spain. They would have to test and show that their English was at that advanced mid-level. I’ve given you a link to their website. Again, that’s going to be in the workbook. Amazing resource.
You can just kind of visually look, where am I on there? They have all sorts of self-assessments on there. You can actually go to their website too and get Language Testing International and for sort of a hefty fee, you can actually pay someone to test your language skills and that will be an official rating.
We talked about the CEFR, those A, B, and C levels. A1 and 2. That would be that novice level that we talked about those words and phrases up into sentences. Then, you have B1 and 2, right? You’re getting into paragraphs here. Creating with languages up into paragraphs. Again, that B2, a lot of people consider it to be fluent. The C level, C1 and C2, really, really advanced. They use sort of … got basically a scale of six. It’s broader than ACTFL. But I think it’s … they’ve got lots of tests online that you can even Google CEFR proficiency tests and they’ve got all kinds of self-checks.
They have something called the Can-Do Statements that are based on that. The association of language teachers of Europe. Again, this is all going to be in your workbook and you can go and really start thinking about specific concrete things you can do in a language and that’s going to move you forward.
As we discussed earlier, you’ve got the Language Testing International, which is going to give you official results and this page here, it’s going to give you access, links to all of the assessments that we talked about. You can do official assessments with Language Testing International. Someone will … you can arrange a test through them and you can get a really good concrete idea of where your skills are. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re … unless you need it for official reasons.
I’ve done this testing and I had to present official results for employment, but it’s expensive. If you don’t need to do that sort of thing, I wouldn’t recommend it until you’re really advanced because you can do lots of these assessments on yourself. Another link from that page, the ACTFL page are the Can-Do Statements, it’s amazing. They get really, really, really, really, really specific about what people at different language ranges and levels can do. It’s going to give you so many ideas. It’s going to tell you where you are and it’s going to show you specific things to learn to move forward.
All of the things we talked about are going to be in your self-assessment workbook, which we’re going to send you at the end of the course, and you can work through all the things we talked about plus some other things that we’re going to talk about in some future lessons. Our next lesson is going to be all about how long it takes to learn a language, and how long it takes to learn different kinds of languages, different categories of languages.
So, for now, I’m going to say, and we’ll see you at the next lesson.
Looking for more resources to measure your progress and fluency in language? Click here for the workbook.