quasi-quantifying language proficiency
Thread poster: Richard Bartholomew

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
Member (2007)
German to English
Dec 29, 2006

There's a lot of discssion in these fora about what constitutes native language ability, but not much about lesser degrees of proficiency. How do you describe your level of acomplishment in your second or third language?

I expected people to use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or the Association of Language Testers in Europe scales, but site searches for "CERF" and "Language Testers" produced surprisingly few hits.
Is there some more popular way to express this?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:57
German to English
Language proficiency Dec 29, 2006

Hi Rich - here's something to chew on:

Dominant language
This term has two distinct meanings:
(1) the language of primary competence, the language that a person knows best, which may or may not be the person’s native language. For example, in the case of immigrants educated primarily (or exclusively) in the US, although their native language may be other than English, their primary language competence is in English, not in their native language.
(2) the language spoken by the dominant class, the recognized standard of correct grammar and usage. Some examples would be "the King's English," "New York Times English", the Spanish prescribed by the Real Academia, etc. The more usual term for this is standard language.

Active languages
(1) The language or languages into which an interpreter is competent to interpret professionally.
(2) The term is also used in meetings & conventions to mean the target languages into which interpreting is provided. For example, in a convention where all presentations are to be given in English and interpretation is provided into Spanish, French, and Russian, these three would be the active languages, while English would be the passive language.

Passive languages
The languages from which an interpreter is competent to interpret professionally. The term is also used in meetings & conventions to mean the languages from which interpreting is provided.
For example, in a meeting where all presentations are given in English and interpretation is provided into Spanish, French, and Russian, English is the passive language and Spanish, French, and Russian the active languages.

http://www.barinas.com/d-h.htm


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
interesting nuances Dec 30, 2006

Yes, I see: the native language is often, though not necessarily, the dominant language as defined in (1). I should have written "dominant" instead of "native".

The point, though, is that people seem content to answer the question "How well can you communicate in X?" with "pretty well", "alright I guess", "I took four years in high school", and other responses the meanings of which vary wildly from person to person.

Wikipedia uses phrases like "This user is a native [sic] speaker of English." or "These users are able to contribute with a basic level of English.". Why not "This user can contribute at CEFR level A1 in English."?

I realize that there will never be a standard unit of language proficiency next to the standard kilogram in Paris, but some quantificatoin and standardization is surely possible. I just wonder why people don't agree on a standard and use it.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Thor Truelson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
Swedish to English
+ ...
ACTFL Dec 30, 2006

Hi. The US Government uses the ACTFL scale to rate language ability. It goes from 0-5, with 0 being a beginner and 5 being a native speaker. Professionaly proficiency is attained at a 3 and only native speakers can be 5. Guys like Henry Kissinger would be like a 4+ just because his first language wasn't English. I guess in a strictly bilingual family, a person could be a 5 in two languages, although it would be odd to attain the same level of education in both languages, so something would have to give. The whole thing is sort of like an inverted pyramid, where improvement can be rapid at first, but then slow-going. In some tests nothing over 3 is distinguished. You could be a 4, but 3 is the professional standard. A 3 can use all the grammar whenever and however they choose, has a good grasp of cultural nuance and some slang. They can freely discuss virtually any topic to some degree, although they may not have a very deep knowledge of a wide array of things. They are probably extremely well spoken in any areas of specialization, however. They do make some mistakes here and there, but nothing that greatly disturbs meaning. You can look it up and get all of the info online, I am sure. Anyways, within the US Governemnt, this sytem is in place. Teachers are tested within this framework. Not to sully teachers, but many high school language teachers are relatively low-level speakers. The standard there is far lower than what a translation career requires.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
standards Dec 30, 2006

Hi Thor,

As computer scientist Andrew S. Tanenbaum is famed to have remarked: "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Andrew_S._Tanenbaum#Attributed). I was heretofore unaware of the ACTFL or its scale, but I'm not surprised to learn of it. I wonder how many others there are.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxMalik Beytek
Local time: 05:57
They seem to have revised ACTFL scale for the better... Dec 31, 2006

Thor Truelson wrote:

Hi. The US Government uses the ACTFL scale to rate language ability. It goes from 0-5, with 0 being a beginner and 5 being a native speaker. ...


They now seem to have Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior levels -- in other words they have, in effect, combined levels 3-4-5 into Superior (because they found few university graduates reach even level 3!).

What I like about it is that it doesn't make any reference to any thing like "native speaker".

I got that info from this web page here.

http://www.cal.org/resources/Digest/stansf01.html

So Kissinger is now tops - Superior , which makes a whole lot of sense.

Henry Kissinger speaks English with a degree of clarity several times (about ten times?) as high as what George Bush offers. Who is the "native speaker" here, then?)


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:57
German to English
+ ...
I seem to find references to the CREF everywhere.... Apr 14, 2007

If you Google COMMON EUROPEAN REFERENCE FRAMEWOR, you get over 500 hits, which all seem to relate to language proficiency.

If anyone asks me to describe my accomplishment in my second or third language, I say “C2”. It saves a lot of words.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Re: I seem to find references to the CREF everywhere.... Apr 15, 2007

Richard Benham wrote:
If anyone asks me to describe my accomplishment in my second or third language, I say “C2”. It saves a lot of words.


I do too. Usually I'll add that I've passed the ZMP or KDS or Test DaF or whatever with such-and-such scores just to lend credence.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:57
German to English
+ ...
Problem comes.... Apr 17, 2007

...when you don’t have the diploma to back it up.

In my case, I have the Große Deutsche Sprachdiplom in German, with the grade sehr gut, which is about as much formal evidence of C2-level proficiency as one could hope for. The only thing is, when I use German, I am still acutely aware that I am using a foreign language, but with French I feel much more comfortable, and sometimes have trouble remembering whether I read or heard something in French or in English (my native language).... But the last formal test of my French was over 30 years ago, long before the CERF was invented, and the current version of the diploma is only rated B2 or something (I forget). So, if asked to defend my claim to C2-level French, all I can say is, “Well, my French is better than my German, and I’ve got a C2-level German diploma....” I would have trouble believing someone who said this; so maybe I should lash out and do the DALF C2.

I do think that language certifications, for all its imperfections, serves a purpose. It is all too easy for job applicants, for instance, to exaggerate their language competence, if the employer is not familiar with the language in question.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
Member (2007)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Can't argue with success. Apr 18, 2007

Well, if you've been getting work with your current certifications, then they must be adequate. Has anyone
ever asked to see copies of your certificates before
assigning you a project?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:57
German to English
+ ...
No... Apr 18, 2007

...not that I remember. I don’t actually include my language certifications on my CV, only my translation qualifications.

I think I was asked for copies of all my degrees, diplomas and certificates for one of those exercises that never lead anywhere, when an agency wants to put in a tender to the EU, and so they get a lot of qualified people to submit their CVs and copies of their qualifications, and then, if they get the job, have it done on the cheap by unqualified hacks.


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

quasi-quantifying language proficiency

Advanced search






Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs