Many private ESL tutors do not have many diagnostic resources to gauge their clients’ speaking proficiency. But understanding a client’s speaking level is crucial in designing an effective program of study. I have adapted the ACTFL (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Proficiency Guidelines (1985) to help level this rubric. Click here for more information.
Level 1: Novice-Low
- Speaking length: 1-3 words at a time. Many pauses. Much repetition.
- Vocabulary: Very small to none
- Speaking ability: Single words and popular phrases. No practical communication.
- “Hello”; “Good”; “Bad”; “Bathroom?”; “Favorite food?”; “My name is…”; “How are you?”; “Fine”
Level 2: Novice-Mid
- Speaking length: 1-5 words at a time. Many pauses. Much repetition.
- Vocabulary: Very small
- Speaking ability: Single words and learned phrases with specific purpose. Much difficulty communicating, very slow speech, and many errors.
- “Hi, my name is…”; “I like this…”; “I don’t like this…”;“Where is the bathroom?”; “What is your favorite food?”; “I am fine”
Level 3: Novice-High
- Speaking length: Phrases and sometimes sentences. Many pauses. Much repetition.
- Vocabulary: Small
- Speaking ability: Learned phrases and simple created phrases. Can ask learned questions and make learned statements about prepared subjects. Can speak about learned subjects. Difficult communication, slow speech, and many errors.
- “Hi, my name is… What is your name?”; “This is my favorite…”; “This is really bad.”;?”; What is your favorite breakfast food?”
- Notes: Can speak about learned subjects. Difficult communication, slow speech, and many errors.
Level 4: Intermediate-Low
- Speaking length: Phrases and sentences. Some pauses. Repetition.
- Vocabulary: Elementary
- Speaking ability: Can speak in learned situations. Can interact, ask/answer questions, and comment on simple statements. Can only interact in learned Can communicate in learned subjects/situations. Much difficulty in new situations. Can do simple tasks and have simple conversations. Difficulty communicating, much repetition, generally understood.
Level 5: Intermediate-Mid
- Speaking length: Infrequently multiple phrases and sentences. Fewer pauses. Some repetition.
- Vocabulary: Elementary
- Speaking ability: Can handle many basic situations. Can speak socially about self and loved ones. Can ask and answer questions in learned and very few new situations. Can easily communicate about immediate needs and personal interests. Some difficulty communicating, repetition present, generally understood.
- Notes: Can communicate in very few new subjects/situations. Can perform simple tasks, and basic conversations. Generally understood by others.
Level 6: Intermediate-High
- Speaking length: Sometimes multiple phrases and sentences. Noticeable pauses. Usually whatever length is appropriate. Little repetition.
- Vocabulary: Elementary to middle school
- Speaking ability: Can handle most basic situations. Can start, continue, and complete most general conversations in multiple ways. Incorporates communication strategies to compensate vocabulary. Little difficulty communicating, little repetition, generally understood.
Level 7: Advanced
- Speaking length: Whatever length is appropriate. Very few pauses. Very little repetition.
- Vocabulary: Middle school
- Speaking ability: Can survive all frequent everyday, academic, and business situations. Fairly comfortable with complex situations. Can engage in general conversation about subjects that are familiar but not taught. Uses multiple communication strategies. Vocabulary limitations can often be averted with strategies. Understood with no difficulty.
Level 8: Advanced-High
- Speaking length: Whatever length is appropriate. Very few noticeable pauses.
- Vocabulary: Middle school to high school. Almost no repetition.
- Speaking ability: Able to survive in most everyday, academic, and business situations. Comfortable in complex situations but fairly difficult when extremely complex. Now about to communicate personal knowledge, support points, give specific details, and hypothesize. Effectively uses communication strategies. Vocabulary limitations rarely hinder communications. Able to give nuanced meaning to communications. Easily understood.