INTERAGENCY LANGUAGE ROUNDTABLE

LANGUAGE SKILL LEVEL DESCRIPTIONS


LISTENING



Preface

The following proficiency level descriptions characterize comprehension of
the spoken language. Each of the six "base levels" (coded 00, 10, 20, 30,
40, and 50) implies control of any previous "base level's" functions and
accuracy. The "plus level" designation (coded 06, 16, 26, etc.) will be
assigned when proficiency substantially exceeds one base skill level and
does not fully meet the criteria for the next "base level." The
"plus-level" descriptions are therefore supplementary to the "base-level"
descriptions.

A skill level is assigned to a person through an authorized language
examination. Examiners assign a level on a variety of performance criteria
exemplified in the descriptive statements. Therefore, the examples given
here illustrate, but do not exhaustively describe, either the skills a
person may possess or situations in which he/she may function effectively.

Statements describing accuracy refer to typical stages in the development of
competence in the most commonly taught languages in formal training
programs. In other languages, emerging competence parallels these
characterizations, but often with different details.

Unless otherwise specified, the term "native listener" refers to native
speakers and listeners of a standard dialect.

"Well-educated," in the context of these proficiency descriptions, does not
necessarily imply formal higher education. However, in cultures where
formal higher education is common, the language-use abilities of persons who
have had such education is considered the standard. That is, such a person
meets contemporary expectations for the formal, careful style of the
language, as well as a range of less formal varieties of the language.


Listening 0 (No Proficiency)

No practical understanding of the spoken language. Understanding is
limited to occasional isolated words with essentially no ability to
comprehend communication. (Has been coded L-0 in some nonautomated
applications.)

Listening 0+ (Memorized Proficiency)

Sufficient comprehension to understand a number of memorized utterances in
areas of immediate needs. Slight increase in utterance length understood,
but requires frequent long pauses between understood phrases and repeated
requests on the listener's part for repetition. Understands with reasonable
accuracy only when this involves short memo-rized utterances or formulae.
Utterances understood are relatively short in length. Misunderstandings
arise due to ignoring or inaccurately hearing sounds or word endings (both
inflectional and noninflectional), distorting the original meaning. Can
understand only with difficulty even persons such as teachers who are used
to speaking with non-native speakers. Can understand best those statements
where context strongly supports the utterance's meaning. Gets some main
ideas. (Has been coded L-0+ in some non-automated applications.)

Listening 1 (Elementary Proficiency)

Sufficient comprehension to understand utterances about basic survival needs
and minimum courtesy and travel requirements. In areas of immediate need or
on very familiar topics, can understand simple questions and answers, simple
statements, and very simple face-to-face conversations in a standard
dialect. These must often be delivered more clearly than normal at a rate
slower than normal, with frequent repetitions or paraphrase (that is, by a
native used to dealing with foreigners). Once learned, these sentences can
be varied for similar level vocabulary and grammar and still be understood.
In the majority of utterances, misunderstandings arise due to overlooked or
misunderstood syntax and other grammatical clues. Comprehension vocabulary
inadequate to understand anything but the most elementary needs. Strong
interference from the candidate's native language occurs. Little precision
in the information understood owing to tentative state of passive grammar
and lack of vocabulary. Comprehension areas include basic needs such as:
meals, lodging, transportation, time, and simple directions (including both
route instructions and orders form customs officials, policemen, etc.).
Understands main ideas. (Has been coded L-1 in some nonautomated
applications.)

Listening 1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus)

Sufficient comprehension to understand short conversations about all
survival needs and limited social demands. Developing flexibility evident
in understanding into a range of circumstances beyond immediate survival
needs. Shows spontaneity in understanding by speed, although consistency of
understanding uneven. Limited vocabulary range necessitates repetition for
understanding. Understands more common time forms and most question forms,
some word order patterns, but miscommunication still occurs with more
complex patterns. Cannot sustain understanding of coherent structures in
longer utterances or in unfamiliar situations. Understanding of
descriptions and the giving of precise information is limited. Aware of
basic cohesive features; e.g., pronouns, verb inflections, but many are
unreliably understood, especially if less immediate in reference.
Understanding is largely limited to a series of short, discrete utterances.
Still has to ask for utterances to be repeated. Some ability to understand
the facts. Has been coded
L-1+ in some nonautomated applications.)

Listening 2 (Limited Working Proficiency)

Sufficient comprehension to understand conversations on routine social
demands and limited job requirements. Able to understand face-to-face
speech in a standard dialect, delivered at a normal rate with some
repetition and rewording, by a native speaker not used to dealing with
foreigners, about everyday topics, common personal and family news,
well-known current events, and routine office matters through descriptions
and narration about current, past, and future events; can follow essential
points of discussion or speech at an elementary level on topics in his/her
special professional field. Only understands occasional words and phrases
of statements made in unfavorable conditions; for example, through
loudspeakers outdoors. Understands factual content. Native language causes
less interference in listening comprehension. Able to understand facts;
i.e., the lines but not between or beyond the lines. (Has been coded L-2 in
some nonautomated applications.)

Listening 2+ (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.
Often shows remarkable ability and ease of understanding, but under tension
or pressure may break down. Candidate may display weakness or deficiency
due to inadequate vocabulary base or less than secure knowledge of grammar
and syntax. Normally understands general vocabulary with some hesitant
understanding of everyday vocabulary still evident. Can sometimes detect
emotional overtones. Some ability to understand implications. (Has been
coded L-2+ in some nonautomated applications.)

Listening 3 (General Professional Proficiency)

Able to understand the essentials of all speech in a standard dialect
including technical discussions within a special field. Has effective
understanding of face-to-face speech, delivered with normal clarity and
speed in a standard dialect, on general topics and areas of special
interest; understands hypothesizing and supported opinions. Has broad
enough vocabulary that rarely has to ask for paraphrasing or explanation.
Can follow accurately the essentials of conversations between educated
native speakers, reasonably clear telephone calls, radio broadcasts, news
stories similar to wire service reports, oral reports, some oral technical
reports and public addresses on non-technical subjects; can understand
without difficulty all forms of standard speech concerning a special
professional field. Does not understand native speakers if they speak very
quickly or use some slang or dialect. Can often detect emotional overtones.
Can understand implications. (Has been coded L-3 in some nonautomated
applications.)

Listening 3+ (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 conversation. Ability to comprehend many sociolinguistic and
cultural references. However, may miss some subtleties and nuances.
Increased ability to comprehend unusually complex structures in lengthy
utterances and to comprehend many distinctions in language tailored for
different audiences. Increased ability to understand native speakers
talking quickly, using nonstandard dialect or slang; however, comprehension
not complete. Can discern some relationships among sophisticated listening
materials in the context of broad experience. Can follow some unpredictable
turns of thought readily in, for example, informal and formal speeches
covering editorial, conjectural, and literary material in subject-matter
areas directed to the general listener. (Has been coded L-3+ in some
nonautomated applications.)

Listening 4 (Advanced Professional Proficiency)

Able to understand all forms and styles of speech pertinent to professional
needs. Able to understand fully all speech with extensive and precise
vocabulary, subtleties and nuances in all standard dialects on any subject
relevant to professional needs within the range of his/her experience,
including social conversations; all intelligible broadcasts and telephone
calls; and many kinds of technical discussions and discourse. Understands
language specifically tailored (including persuasion, representation,
counseling, and negotiating) to different audiences. Able to understand the
essentials of speech in some non-standard dialects. Has difficulty in
understanding extreme dialect and slang, also in understanding speech in
unfavorable conditions; for example, through bad loudspeakers outdoors. Can
discern relationships among sophisticated listening materials in the context
of broad experience. Can follow unpredictable turns of thought readily in,
for example, informal and formal speeches covering editorial, conjectural,
and literary material in any subject matter directed to the general
listener. (Has been coded L-4 in some non-automated applications.)

Listening 4+ (Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus)

Increased ability to understand extremely difficult and abstract speech as
well as ability to understand all forms and styles of speech pertinent to
professional needs, including social conversations. Increased ability to
comprehend native speakers using extreme non-standard dialects and slang, as
well as to understand speech in unfavorable conditions. Strong sensitivity
to sociolinguistic and cultural references. Accuracy is close to that of
the well-educated native listener but still not equivalent. (Has been coded
L-4+ in some nonautomated applications.)

Listening 5 (Functionally Native Proficiency)

Comprehension equivalent to that of the well-educated native listener. Able
to understand fully all forms and styles of speech intelligible to the
well-educated native listener, including a number of regional and illiterate
dialects, highly colloquial speech, and conversations and discourse
distorted by marked interference from other noise. Able to understand how
natives think as they create discourse. Able to understand extremely
difficult and abstract speech. (Has been coded L-5 in some nonautomated
applications.)