Please, create a Login, and try the new grammar questions section!
An Earful of English
ACTFL guidelines: Listening
- Understanding is limited to occasional isolated words, such as cognates, borrowed words, and high-frequency social conventions.
- Essentially no ability to comprehend even short utterances.
- Able to understand some short, learned utterances, particularly where context strongly supports understanding and speech is clearly audible.
- Comprehends some words and phrases from simple questions, statements, high-frequency commands and courtesy formulae about topics that refer to basic personal information or the immediate physical setting.
- The listener requires long pauses for assimilation and periodically requests repetition and/or a slower rate of speech.
- Able to understand short, learned utterances and some sentence-length utterances, particularly where context strongly supports understanding and speech is clearly audible.
- Comprehends words and phrases from simple questions, statements, high-frequency commands, and courtesy formulae.
- May require repetition, rephrasing, and/or a slowed rate of speech for comprehension.
- Able to understand sentence-length utterances which consist of recombinations of learned elements in a limited number of content areas, particularly if strongly supported by the situational context.
- Content refers to basic personal background and needs, social conventions and routine tasks, such as getting meals and receiving simple instructions and directions.
- Listening tasks pertain primarily to spontaneous face-to-face conversations.
- Understanding is often uneven; repetition and rewording may be necessary.
- Misunderstandings in both main ideas and details arise frequently.
- Able to understand sentence-length utterances which consist of recombinations of learned utterances on a variety of topics.
- Content continues to refer primarily to basic personal background and needs, social conventions and somewhat more complex tasks, such as lodging, transportation, and shopping.
- Additional content areas include some personal interests and activities, and a greater diversity of instructions and directions.
- Listening tasks not only pertain to spontaneous face-to-face conversations but also to short routine telephone conversations and some deliberate speech, such as simple announcements and reports over the media.
- Understanding continues to be uneven.
- Able to sustain understanding over longer stretches of connected discourse on a number of topics pertaining to different times and places; however, understanding is inconsistent due to failure to grasp main ideas and/or details.
- Thus, while topics do not differ significantly from those of an Advanced level listener, comprehension is less in quantity and poorer in quality.
- Able to understand main ideas and most details of connected discourse on a variety of topics beyond the immediacy of the situation.
- Comprehension may be uneven due to a variety of linguistic and extralinguistic factors, among which topic familiarity is very prominent.
- These texts frequently involve description and narration in different time frames or aspects, such as present, nonpast, habitual, or imperfective.
- Texts may include interviews, short lectures on familiar topics, and news items and reports primarily dealing with factual information.
- Listener is aware of cohesive devices but may not be able to use them to follow the sequence of thought in an oral text.
- Able to understand the main ideas of most speech in a standard dialect; however, the listener may not be able to sustain comprehension in extended discourse which is propositionally and linguistically complex.
- Listener shows an emerging awareness of culturally implied meanings beyond the surface meanings of the text but may fail to grasp sociocultural nuances of the message.
- Able to understand the main ideas of all speech in a standard dialect, including technical discussion in a field of specialization.
- Can follow the essentials of extended discourse which is propositionally and linguistically complex, as in academic/professional settings, in lectures, speeches, and reports.
- Listener shows some appreciation of aesthetic norms of target language, of idioms, colloquialisms, and register shifting.
- Able to make inferences within the cultural framework of the target language.
- Understanding is aided by an awareness of the underlying organizational structure of the oral text and includes sensitivity for its social and cultural references and its affective overtones.
- Rarely misunderstands but may not understand excessively rapid, highly colloquial speech or speech that has strong cultural references.
ACTFL guidelines: Speaking
The Novice level is characterized by the ability to communicate minimally with learned material.
- Oral production consists of isolated words and perhaps a few high-frequency phrases. Essentially no functional communicative ability.
- Oral production continues to consist of isolated words and learned phrases within very predictable areas of need, although quantity is increased.
- Vocabulary is sufficient only for handling simple, elementary needs and expressing basic courtesies.
- Utterances rarely consist of more than two or three words and show frequent long pauses and repetition of interlocutor's words.
- Speaker may have some difficulty producing even the simplest utterances.
- Some Novice-Mid speakers will be understood only with great difficulty.
- Able to satisfy partially the requirements of basic communicative exchanges by relying heavily on learned utterances but occasionally expanding these through simple recombinations of their elements.
- Can ask questions or make statements involving learned material.
- Shows signs of spontaneity although this falls short of real autonomy of expression.
- Speech continues to consist of learned utterances rather than of personalized, situationally adapted ones.
- Vocabulary centers on areas such as basic objects, places, and most common kinship terms.
- Pronunciation may still be strongly influenced by first language.
- Errors are frequent and, in spite of repetition, some Novice-High speakers will have difficulty being understood even by sympathetic interlocutors.
- create with the language by combining and recombining learned elements, though primarily in a reactive mode
- initiate, minimally sustain, and close in a simple way basic communicative tasks
- ask and answer questions.
- Able to handle successfully a limited number of interactive, task-oriented, and social situations.
- Can ask and answer questions, initiate and respond to simple statements, and maintain face-to-face conversation, although in a highly restricted manner and with much linguistic inaccuracy.
- Within these limitations, can perform such tasks as introducing self, ordering a meal, asking directions, and making purchases.
- Vocabulary is adequate to express only the most elementary needs.
- Strong interference from native language may occur.
- Misunderstandings frequently arise, but with repetition, the Intermediate-Low speaker can generally be understood by sympathetic interlocutors.
- Able to handle successfully a variety of uncomplicated, basic, and communicative tasks and social situations.
- Can talk simply about self and family members.
- Can ask and answer questions and participate in simple conversations on topics beyond the most immediate needs; e.g., personal history and leisure time activities.
- Utterance length increases slightly, but speech may continue to be characterized by frequent long pauses, since the smooth incorporation of even basic conversational strategies is often hindered as the speaker struggles to create appropriate language forms.
- Pronunciation may continue to be strongly influenced by first language and fluency may still be strained.
- Although misunderstandings still arise, the Intermediate-Mid speaker can generally be understood by sympathetic interlocutors.
ACTFL guidelines: Speaking--Advanced
- Able to handle successfully most uncomplicated communicative tasks and social situations.
- Can initiate, sustain, and close a general conversation with a number of strategies appropriate to a range of circumstances and topics, but errors are evident.
- Limited vocabulary still necessitates hesitation and may bring about slightly unexpected circumlocution.
- There is emerging evidence of connected discourse, particularly for simple narration and/or description.
- The Intermediate-High speaker can generally be understood even by interlocutors not accustomed to dealing with speakers at this level, but repetition may still be required.
General Description - The Advanced level is characterized by the speaker's ability to:
- converse in a clearly participatory fashion
- initiate, sustain, and bring to closure a wide variety of communicative tasks, including those that require an increased ability to convey meaning with diverse language strategies due to a complication or an unforeseen turn of events
- satisfy the requirements of school and work situations,
- narrate and describe with paragraph-length connected discourse.
- Able to satisfy the requirements of everyday situations and routine school and work requirements.
- Can handle with confidence but not with facility complicated tasks and social situations, such as elaborating, complaining, and apologizing.
- Can narrate and describe with some details, linking sentences together smoothly.
- Can communicate facts and talk casually about topics of current public and personal interest, using general vocabulary.
- Shortcomings can often be smoothed over by communicative strategies, such as pause fillers, stalling devices, and different rates of speech.
- Circumlocution which arises from vocabulary or syntactic limitations very often is quite successful, though some groping for words may still be evident.
- The Advanced-level speaker can be understood without difficulty by native interlocutors.
ACTFL guidelines: Speaking--Superior
- Able to satisfy the requirements of a broad variety of everyday, school, and work situations.
- Can discuss concrete topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence.
- There is emerging evidence of ability to support opinions, explain in detail, and hypothesize.
- The Advanced-Plus speaker often shows a well-developed ability to compensate for an imperfect grasp of some forms with confident use of communicative strategies, such as paraphrasing and circumlocution.
- Differentiated vocabulary and intonation are effectively used to communicate fine shades of meaning.
- The Advanced-Plus speaker often shows remarkable fluency and ease of speech, but under the demands of Superior-level complex tasks, language may break down or prove inadequate.
Distinguishing characteristics - The Superior level is characterized by the speaker's ability to:
- participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, professional, and abstract topics
- support opinions and hypothesize using native-like discourse strategies
- Able to speak the language with sufficient accuracy to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, professional, and abstract topics.
- Can discuss special fields of competence and interest with ease.
- Can support opinions and hypothesize, but may not be able to tailor language to audience or discuss in depth highly abstract or unfamiliar topics.
- Usually the Superior level speaker is only partially familiar with regional or other dialectical variants.
- The Superior level speaker commands a wide variety of interactive strategies and shows good awareness of discourse strategies.
- The latter involves the ability to distinguish main ideas from supporting information through syntactic, lexical, and suprasegmental features (pitch, stress, intonation).
- Sporadic errors may occur, particularly in low-frequency structures and some complex high-frequency structures more common to formal writing, but no patterns of error are evident.
- Errors do not disturb the native speaker or interfere with communication.
ACTFL guidelines: Reading
- Able occasionally to identify isolated words and/or major phrases when strongly supported by context.
- Able to recognize the symbols of an alphabetic and/or syllabic writing system and/or a limited number of characters in a system that uses characters.
- The reader can identify an increasing number of highly contextualized words and/or phrases including cognates and borrowed words, where appropriate.
- Material understood rarely exceeds a single phrase at a time, and rereading may be required.
- Has sufficient control of the writing system to interpret written language in areas of practical need.
- Where vocabulary has been learned, can read for instructional and directional purposes, standardized messages, phrases, or expressions, such as some items on menus, schedules, timetables, maps, and signs.
- At times, but not on a consistent basis, the Novice-High level reader may be able to derive meaning from material at a slightly higher level where context and/or extralinguistic background knowledge are supportive.
- Able to understand main ideas and/or some facts from the simplest connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs.
- Such texts are linguistically noncomplex and have a clear underlying internal structure, for example, chronological sequencing.
- They impart basic information about which the reader has to make only minimal suppositions or to which the reader brings personal interest and/or knowledge.
- Examples include messages with social purposes and information for the widest possible audience, such as public announcements and short, straightforward instructions dealing with public life.
- Some misunderstandings will occur.
- Able to read consistently with increased understanding simple, connected texts dealing with a variety of basic and social needs. Such texts are still linguistically noncomplex and have a clear underlying internal structure.
- They impart basic information about which the reader has to make minimal suppositions and to which the reader brings personal interest and/or knowledge. Examples may include short, straightforward descriptions of persons, places, and things written for a wide audience.
- Able to read consistently with full understanding simple connected texts dealing with basic personal and social needs about which the reader has personal interest and/or knowledge.
- Can get some main ideas and information from texts at the next higher level featuring description and narration.
- Structural complexity may interfere with comprehension; for example, basic grammatical relations may be misinterpreted and temporal references may rely primarily on lexical items.
- Has some difficulty with the cohesive factors in discourse, such as matching pronouns with referents.
- While texts do not differ significantly from those at the Advanced level, comprehension is less consistent. May have to read material several times for understanding.
- Able to read somewhat longer prose of several paragraphs in length, particularly if presented with a clear underlying structure.
- The prose is predominantly in familiar sentence patterns. Reader gets the main ideas and facts and misses some details.
- Comprehension derives not only from situational and subject matter knowledge but from increasing control of the language.
- Texts at this level include descriptions and narrations such as simple short stories, news items, bibliographical information, social notices, personal correspondence, routinized business letters, and simple technical material written for the general reader.
- Able to follow essential points of written discourse at the Superior level in areas of special interest or knowledge.
- Able to understand parts of texts which are conceptually abstract and linguistically complex, and/or texts which treat unfamiliar topics and situations, as well as some texts which involve aspects of target-language culture.
- Able to comprehend the facts to make appropriate inferences. An emerging awareness of the aesthetic properties of language and of its literary styles permits comprehension of a wider variety of texts, including literary.
- Misunderstandings may occur.
- Able to read with almost complete comprehension and at normal speed expository prose on unfamiliar subjects and a variety of literary texts.
- Reading ability is not dependent on subject matter knowledge, although the reader is not expected to comprehend thoroughly texts which are highly dependent on knowledge of the target culture.
- Reads easily for pleasure.
- Superior-level texts feature hypotheses, argumentation, and supported opinions, and include grammatical patterns and vocabulary ordinarily encountered in academic/professional reading.
- At this level, due to the control of general vocabulary and structure, the reader is almost always able to match the meanings derived from extralinguistic knowledge with meanings derived from knowledge of the language, allowing for smooth and efficient reading of diverse texts.
- Occasional misunderstandings may still occur; for example, the reader may experience some difficulty with unusually complex structures and low-frequency idioms.
- At the Superior level the reader can match strategies, top-down or bottom-up, which are most appropriate to the text. (Top-down strategies rely on real-world knowledge and prediction based on genre and organizational scheme of the text. Bottom-up strategies rely on actual linguistic knowledge.)
- Material at this level will include a variety of literary texts, editorials, correspondence, general reports, and technical material in professional fields.
- Rereading is rarely necessary, and misreading is rare.
ACTFL guidelines: Writing
- Able to form some letters in an alphabetic system.
- In languages whose writing systems use syllabaries or characters, writer is able to both copy and produce the basic strokes.
- Can produce romanization of isolated characters, where applicable.
- Able to copy or transcribe familiar words or phrases and reproduce some from memory.
- No practical communicative writing skills.
- Able to write simple, fixed expressions and limited memorized material and some recombinations thereof.
- Can supply information on simple forms and documents.
- Can write names, numbers, dates, own nationality, and other simple autobiographical information, as well as some short phrases and simple lists.
- Can write all the symbols in an alphabetic or syllabic system or 50-100 characters or compounds in a character writing system.
- Spelling and representation of symbols (letters, syllables, characters) may be partially correct.
- Able to meet limited practical writing needs.
- Can write short messages, postcards, and take down simple notes, such as telephone messages.
- Can create statements or questions within the scope of limited language experience.
- Material produced consists of recombinations of learned vocabulary and structures into simple sentences on very familiar topics.
- Able to meet a number of practical writing needs. Can write short, simple letters.
- Content involves personal preferences, daily routine, everyday events, and other topics grounded in personal experience.
- Can express present time and at least one other time frame or aspect consistently, e.g., nonpast, habitual, imperfective.
- Evidence of control of the syntax of non-complex sentences and basic inflectional morphology, such as declensions and conjugation.
- Writing tends to be a loose collection of sentences or sentence fragments on a given topic and provides little evidence of conscious organization.
- Can be understood by natives used to the writing of non-natives.
- Able to meet most practical writing needs and limited social demands. Can take notes in some detail on familiar topics and respond in writing to personal questions.
- Can write simple letters, brief synopses and paraphrases, summaries of biographical data, work and school experience.
- In those languages relying primarily on content words and time expressions to express time, tense, or aspect, some precision is displayed; where tense and/or aspect is expressed through verbal inflection, forms are produced rather consistently, but not always accurately.
- An ability to describe and narrate in paragraphs is emerging.
- Rarely uses basic cohesive elements such as pronominal substitutions or synonyms in written discourse.
- Writing, though faulty, is generally comprehensible to natives used to the writing of non-natives.
- Able to write routine social correspondence and join sentences in simple discourse of at least several paragraphs in length on familiar topics.
- Can write simple social correspondence, take notes, write cohesive summaries and resumes, as well as narratives and descriptions of a factual nature.
- Has sufficient writing vocabulary to express self simply with some circumlocution.
- May still make errors in punctuation, spelling, or the formation of nonalphabetic symbols.
- Good control of the morphology and the most frequently used syntactic structures, e.g., common word order patterns, coordination, subordination, but makes frequent errors in producing complex sentences.
- Uses a limited number of cohesive devices, such as pronouns, accurately. Writing may resemble literal translations from the native language, but a sense of organization (rhetorical structure) is emerging.
- Writing is understandable to natives not used to the writing of non-natives.
- Able to write about a variety of topics with significant precision and in detail.
- Can write most social and informal business correspondence.
- Can describe and narrate personal experiences fully but has difficulty supporting points of view in written discourse.
- Can write about the concrete aspects of topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence.
- Often shows remarkable fluency and ease of expression, but under time constraints and pressure writing may be inaccurate.
- Generally strong in either grammar or vocabulary, but not in both.
- Weakness and unevenness in one of the foregoing or in spelling or character writing formation may result in occasional miscommunication.
- Some misuse of vocabulary may still be evident.
- Style may still be obviously foreign.
- Able to express self effectively in most formal and informal writing on practical, social and professional topics.
- Can write most types of correspondence, such as memos as well as social and business letters, and short research papers and statements of position in areas of special interest or in special fields.
- Good control of a full range of structures, spelling or nonalphabetic symbol production, and a wide general vocabulary allow the writer to hypothesize and present arguments or points of view accurately and effectively.
- An underlying organization, such as chronological ordering, logical ordering, cause and effect, comparison, and thematic development is strongly evident, although not thoroughly executed and/or not totally reflecting target language patterns.
- Although sensitive to differences in formal and informal style, still may not tailor writing precisely to a variety of purposes and/or readers.
- Errors in writing rarely disturb natives or cause miscommunication.
Last updated: 20 December 2007