Spoken Proficiency Guidelines
There are many ways to describe how well you speak another language. We use the following chart to help you get into a class that is just right for you.
Other language programs have different systems for rating your ability, so be sure to read this table before deciding which level of language class you should be in. This is just an estimate, so don't worry about it too much.
You will enjoy your class best if you don't estimate your skill level higher or lower than where you are really at. Knowing your starting point will also help you recognize the progress you make as you build your language skill.
When you contact us by phone or email, you will be asked to estimate your approximate "proficiency level". The description in the first column on the left of this table will be the best way to describe your ability to us.
These descriptions are recognized internationally, and have been developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).
|Absolute Beginner - Novice Mid||0||No ability at all||No Proficiency: Unable to function in the spoken language||No Proficiency: No practical understanding of the spoken language.|
Initiate and end conversation
Order food from a menu
Tell time, weekday and date
Make purchases in a store
Introduce yourself or someone else
Exchange personal information
|Elementary Proficiency: Able to satisfy minimum courtesy requirements and maintain very simple face-to-face conversations on familiar topics.||Elementary Proficiency:Sufficient comprehension to understand utterances about basic survival needs and minimum courtesy and travel requirements.|
|Intermediate High||1+||All of the above plus 3 of the following||Elementary Proficiency, Plus: Can initiate and maintain predictable face-to-face conversations and satisfy limited social demands.||Elementary Proficiency, Plus: Sufficient comprehension to understand short conversations about all survival needs and limited social demands|
Discuss weather, you family and home
Give a simple message over the phone
Give a brief autobiography
Pronunciation is always intelligible
People understand you at least 80% of the time and you understand 80% of this level of conversation
Limited Working Proficiency: Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements.
|Limited Working Proficiency: Sufficient comprehension to understand conversations on routine social demands and limited job requirements.|
|Advanced Plus||2+||All of the above plus 3 of the following||Limited Working Proficiency, Plus: Able to satisfy most work requirements with language usage that is often, but not always, acceptable and effective.||Limited Working Proficiency, Plus: Sufficient comprehension to understand most routine social demands and most conversations on work requirements as well as some discussions on concrete topics related to particular interests and special fields of competence.|
Do not avoid grammatical features
Complete any sentence
Participate in a conversation between native speakers
Understand information over the phone
Take accurate notes from a speech or discussion
Communicate clearly with a group on a professional subject
Manage common blunders, surprises or emergencies
Understand conversation between native speakers
Could serve as an interpreter on any of the subjects at this level
Carry out job responsibilities in the new language
General Professional Proficiency: Able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics.
General Professional Proficiency: Able to understand the essentials of all speech in a standard dialect including technical discussions within a special field.
|All of the above plus 3 of the following||General Professional Proficiency, Plus: Is often able to use the language to satisfy professional needs in a wide range of sophisticated and demanding tasks.||General Professional Proficiency, Plus: Comprehends most of the content and intent of a variety of forms and styles of speech pertinent to professional needs, as well as general topics and social conversations.|
Practically never make grammatical mistakes
Always understand native speakers talking to each other
Understand jokes and puns
Convey exact meaning in a professional context with sufficient vocabulary
Significant understanding of target language culture
Adjust speech for different situations
|Advanced Professional Proficiency: Able to use to the language fluently and accurately on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs.||Advanced Professional Proficiency: Able to understand all forms and styles of speech pertinent to professional needs.|
|Distinguished Plus||4+||All of the above plus 3 of the following||Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus: Speaking proficiency is regularly superior in all respects, usually equivalent to that of a well-educated, highly articulate native speaker.||Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus: Increased ability to understand extremely difficult and abstract speech as well as ability to understand all forms of speech pertinent to professional needs, including social conversations.|
Treated as an insider by native speakers
Sometimes more at home in the target language
Do mental math without slowing down
Completely bilingual and bicultural
|Functionally Native Proficiency: Speaking proficiency is functionally equivalent to that of a highly articulate, well-educated native speaker and reflects the cultural standards of the country where the language is natively spoken.||Functionally Native Proficiency: Comprehension equivalent to that of a the educated native listener|