Looking for the Truth About Language Levels

As teachers, we recognize a difference between Zero and False Beginners. I wonder if we could have a discussion about students whose different language skills are at both the intermediate and advanced levels. Let me clarify. I’m not referring to high intermediate students, whose language skills are all more or less progressing at the same rate towards advanced proficiency. I’m giving thought to those students who only in some respects can be called advanced because they still have some skills that are clearly below the advanced level. Is there a label for this? “False Advanced” sounds unfair. Perhaps “quasi-advanced”? We might then say, for example, “Anna is quasi-advanced, with her strongest skills being reading, writing, and grammar.” or “John is quasi-advanced, with writing being his main weakness.” What do you think?

I entered this reflection after considering the levels of some students I’ve interacted with both recently and in the past. Some clearly have strong comprehension, but are limited in self-expression. Others feel at ease during conversation, but shy away from reading and writing. Of course, all students have their individual strengths, but in some cases the gap between certain skills is significant. Have you made similar observations?

While thinking about language levels, I also tried to formulate a more concise answer to a question I’m often asked by students. They are typically intermediate language learners and desperately wish to be advanced. “How can I improve my English?” they ask. “How can I become more fluent?” My advice is rather voluminous. Very often I refer students to my collection of Study Tips. More recently, I’ve tried to learn what others feel is key to the success in language learning. In response to my question, people were first indicating that it was one’s ability to set and meet goals. As of today, the poll shows that people believe the true advantage is the chance to immerse onself in a country where the target language is spoken.

Your thoughts?


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nina Liakos says:

    I absolutely agree. Students at all levels exhibit strengths and weaknesses that make it hard to label them with our traditional level labels. But what to call it? If we use “quasi” I am not sure how to pronounce it (kwahzi? or kweyzai?)! Partly? Semi? Partially? Nothing sounds right to me. Happy holidays!

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Thanks, Nina. Well, I don’t think we ought to add “quasi-advanced” to the textbooks, but perhaps it can be used unofficially to refer to those special cases where the gap between some skills is significant, yet some of those skills truly deserve the traditional label “advanced”.

      Warm holiday wishes to you!

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