INTERAGENCY LANGUAGE ROUNDTABLE

LANGUAGE SKILL LEVEL DESCRIPTIONS


READING


Preface

The following proficiency level descriptions characterize comprehension of
the written 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 reader" refers to native
readers 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.

In the following descriptions a standard set of text-types is associated
with each level. The text-type is generally characterized in each
descriptive statement.

The word "read," in the context of these proficiency descriptions, means
that the person at a given skill level can thoroughly understand the
communicative intent in the text-types described. In the usual case the
reader could be expected to make a full representation, thorough summary, or
translation of the text into English.

Other useful operations can be performed on written texts that do not
require the ability to "read," as defined above. Examples of such tasks
which people of a given skill level may reasonably be expected to perform
are provided, when appropriate, in the descriptions.

Reading 0 (No Proficiency)

No practical ability to read the language. Consistently misunderstands or
cannot comprehend at all. (Has been coded R-0 in some nonautomated
applications.

Reading 0+ (Memorized Proficiency)

Can recognize all the letters in the printed version of an alphabetic system
and high-frequency elements of a syllabary or a character system. Able to
read some or all of the following: numbers, isolated words and phrases,
personal and place names, street signs, office and shop designations; the
above often interpreted inaccurately. Unable to read connected prose. (Has
been coded R-0+ in some nonautomated applications.

Reading 1 (Elementary Proficiency)

Sufficient comprehension to read very simple connected written material in a
form equivalent to usual printing or typescript. Can read either
representations of familiar formulaic verbal exchanges or simple language
containing only the highest frequency structural patterns and vocabulary,
including shared international vocabulary items and cognates (when
appropriate). Able to read and understand known language elements that have
been recombined in new ways to achieve different meanings at a similar level
of simplicity. Texts may include simple narratives of routine behavior;
highly predictable descriptions of persons, places, or things; and
explanations of geography and government such as those simplified for
tourists. Some misunderstandings possible on simple texts. Can get some
main ideas and locate prominent items of professional significance in more
complex texts. Can identify general subject matter in some authentic texts.
(Has been coded R-1 in some nonautomated applications.)

Reading 1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus)

Sufficient comprehension to understand simple discourse in printed form for
informative social purposes. Can read material such as announcements of
public events, simple prose containing biographical information or narration
of events, and straightforward newspaper headlines. Can guess at unfamiliar
vocabulary if highly contextualized, but with difficulty in unfamiliar
contexts. Can get some main ideas and locate routine information of
professional significance in more complex texts. Can follow essential
points of written discussion at an elementary level on topics in his/her
special professional field.

In commonly taught languages, the individual may not control the structure
well. For example, basic grammatical relations are often misinterpreted,
and temporal reference may rely primarily on lexical items as time
indicators. Has some difficulty with the cohesive factors in discourse,
such as matching pronouns with referents. May have to read materials
several times for understanding. (Has been coded R-1+ in some nonautomated
applications.)

Reading 2 (Limited Working Proficiency)

Sufficient comprehension to read simple, authentic written material in a
form equivalent to usual printing or typescript on subjects within a
familiar context. Able to read with some misunderstandings straightforward,
familiar, factual material, but in general insufficiently experienced with
the language to draw inferences directly from the linguistic aspects of the
text. Can locate and understand the main ideas and details in material
written for the general reader. However, persons who have professional
knowledge of a subject may be able to summarize or perform sorting and
locating tasks with written texts that are well beyond their general
proficiency level. The individual can read uncomplicated, but authentic,
prose on familiar subjects that are normally presented in a predictable
sequence which aids the reader in understanding. Texts may include
descriptions and narrations in contexts such as news items describing
frequently occurring events, simple biographical information, social
notices, formulaic business letters, and simple technical material written
for the general reader. Generally the prose that can be read by the
individual is predominantly in straightforward/high-frequency sentence
patterns. The individual does not have a broad active vocabulary (that is,
which he/she recognizes immediately on sight), but is able to use contextual
and real-world cues to understand the text. Characteristically, however,
the individual is quite slow in performing such a process. He/she is
typically able to answer factual questions about authentic texts of the
types described above. (Has been coded R-2 in some nonautomated
applications.)

Reading 2+ (Limited Working Proficiency, Plus)

Sufficient comprehension to understand most factual material in
non-technical prose as well as some discussions on concrete topics related
to special professional interests. Is markedly more proficient at reading
materials on a familiar topic. Is able to separate the main ideas and
details from lesser ones and uses that distinction to advance understanding.
The individual is able to use linguistic context and real-world knowledge
to make sensible guesses about unfamiliar material. Has a broad active
reading vocabulary. The individual is able to get the gist of main and
subsidiary ideas in texts which could only be read thoroughly by persons
with much higher proficiencies. Weaknesses include slowness, uncertainty,
inability to discern nuance and/or intentionally disguised meaning. (Has
been coded R-2+ in some nonautomated applications.)

Reading 3 (General Professional Proficiency)

Able to read within a normal range of speed and with almost complete
comprehension a variety of authentic prose material on unfamiliar subjects.
Reading ability is not dependent on subject matter knowledge, although it
is not expected that the individual can comprehend thoroughly subject matter
which is highly dependent on cultural knowledge or which is outside his/her
general experience and not accompanied by explanation. Text-types include
news stories similar to wire service reports or international news items in
major periodicals, routine correspondence, general reports, and technical
material in his/her professional field; all of these may include hypothesis,
argumentation, and supported opinions. Misreading rare. Almost always able
to interpret material correctly, relate ideas, and "read between the lines,"
(that is, understand the writers' implicit intents in texts of the above
types). Can get the gist of more sophisticated texts, but may be unable to
detect or understand subtlety and nuance. Rarely has to pause over or
reread general vocabulary. However, may experience some difficulty with
unusually complex structure and low frequency idioms. (Has been coded R-3
in some nonautomated applications.)

Reading 3+ (General Professional Proficiency, Plus)

Can comprehend a variety of styles and forms pertinent to professional
needs. Rarely misinterprets such texts or rarely experiences difficulty
relating ideas or making inferences. Able to comprehend many
sociolinguistic and cultural references. However, may miss some nuances and
subtleties. Able to comprehend a considerable range of intentionally
complex structures, low-frequency idioms, and uncommon connotative
intentions; however, accuracy is not complete. The individual is typically
able to read with facility, understand, and appreciate contemporary
expository, technical, or literary texts which do not rely heavily on slang
and unusual idioms. (Has been coded R-3+ in some nonautomated
applications.) [Data Code 36].

Reading 4 (Advanced Professional Proficiency)

Able to read fluently and accurately all styles and forms of the language
pertinent to professional needs. The individual's experience with the
written language is extensive enough that he/she is able to relate
inferences in the text to real-world knowledge and understand almost all
sociolinguistic and cultural references. Able to "read beyond the lines"
(that is, to understand the full ramifications of texts as they are situated
in the wider cultural, political, or social environment). Able to read and
understand the intent of writers' use of nuance and subtlety. The
individual can discern relationships among sophisticated written materials
in the context of broad experience. Can follow unpredictable turns of
thoughts readily in, for example, editorials, conjectural, and literary
texts in any subject matter area directed to the general reader. Can read
essentially all materials in his/her special field, including official and
professional documents and correspondence. Recognizes all professionally
relevant vocabulary known to the educated non-professional native, although
may have some difficulty with slang. Can read reasonably legible
handwriting without difficulty. Accuracy is often nearly that of a
well-educated native reader. (Has been coded R-4 in some nonautomated
applications.)

Reading 4+ (Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus)

Nearly native ability to read and understand extremely difficult or abstract
prose, a very wide variety of vocabulary, idioms, colloquialisms, and slang.
Strong sensitivity to and understanding of sociolinguistic and cultural
references. Little difficulty in reading less than fully legible
handwriting. Broad ability to "read beyond the lines" (that is, to
understand the full ramifications of texts as they are situated in the wider
cultural, political, or social environment) is nearly that of a well-read or
well-educated native reader. Accuracy is close to that of the well-educated
native reader, but not equivalent. (Has been coded R-4+ in some
nonautomated applications.)

Reading 5 (Functionally Native Proficiency)

Reading proficiency is functionally equivalent to that of the well-educated
native reader. Can read extremely difficult and abstract prose; for
example, general legal and technical as well as highly colloquial writings.
Able to read literary texts, typically including contemporary avant-garde
prose, poetry, and theatrical writing. Can read classical/archaic forms of
literature with the same degree of facility as the well-educated, but
non-specialist native. Reads and understands a wide variety of vocabulary
and idioms, colloquialisms, slang, and pertinent cultural references. With
varying degrees of difficulty, can read all kinds of handwritten documents.
Accuracy of comprehension is equivalent to that of a well-educated native
reader. (Has been coded R-5 in some nonautomated applications.)