1 (Elementary Proficiency) Able to satisfy minimum courtesy requirements
and maintain very simple face-to-face conversations on familiar topics.
A native speaker must often use slowed speech, repetition, paraphrase,
or a combination of these to be understood by this individual. Similarly,
the native speaker must strain and employ real-world knowledge to understand
even simple statements/questions from this individual. This speaker
has a functional, but limited proficiency. Misunderstandings are frequent,
but the individual is able to ask for help and to verify comprehension
of native speech in face-to-face interaction. The individual is unable
to produce continuous discourse except with rehearsed material.
accuracy is likely to be random or severely limited. Time concepts
are vague. Vocabulary is inaccurate, and its range is very narrow.
The individual often speaks with great difficulty. By repeating, such
speakers can make themselves understood to native speakers who are
in regular contact with foreigners but there is little precision in
the information conveyed. Needs, experience or training may vary greatly
from individual to individual; for example, speakers at this level
may have encountered quite different vocabulary areas. However, the
individual can typically satisfy predictable, simple, personal and
accommodation needs; can generally meet courtesy, introduction, and
identification requirements; exchange greetings; elicit and provide,
for example, predictable and skeletal biographical information. He/she
might give information about business hours, explain routine procedures
in a limited way. and state in a simple manner what actions will be
taken. He/she is able to formulate some questions even in languages
with complicated question constructions. Almost every utterance may
be characterized by structural errors and errors in basic grammatical
relations. Vocabulary is extremely limited and characteristically does
not include modifiers. Pronunciation, stress, and intonation are generally
poor, often heavily influenced by another language. Use of structure
and vocabulary is highly imprecise. (Has been coded S-1 in some nonautomated
applications.) [Data Code 10]
1+ (Elementary Proficiency, Plus) Can initiate and maintain predictable face-to-face
conversations and satisfy limited social demands. He/she may, however,
have little understanding of the social conventions of conversation.
The interlocutor is generally required to strain and employ real-world
knowledge to understand even some simple speech. The speaker at this
level may hesitate and may have to change subjects due to lack of language
resources. Range and control of the language are limited. Speech largely
consists of a series of short, discrete utterances.
Examples: The individual
is able to satisfy most travel and accommodation needs and a limited
range of social demands beyond exchange of skeletal biographic information.
Speaking ability may extend beyond immediate survival needs. Accuracy
in basic grammatical relations is evident, although not consistent.
May exhibit the more common forms of verb tenses, for example, but
may make frequent errors in formation and selection. While some structures
are established, errors occur in more complex patterns. The individual
typically cannot sustain coherent structures in longer utterances or
unfamiliar situations. Ability to describe and give precise information
is limited. Person, space and time references are often used incorrectly.
Pronunciation is understandable to natives used to dealing with foreigners.
Can combine most significant sounds with reasonable comprehensibility,
but has difficulty in producing certain sounds in certain positions
or in certain combinations. Speech will usually be labored. Frequently
has to repeat utterances to be understood by the general public. (Has
been coded S-1+ in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
2 (Limited Working Proficiency) Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited
work requirements. Can handle routine work-related interactions that
are limited in scope. In more complex and sophisticated work-related
tasks, language usage generally disturbs the native speaker. Can handle
with confidence, but not with facility, most normal, high-frequency
social conversational situations including extensive, but casual conversations
about current events, as well as work, family, and autobiographical
information. The individual can get the gist of most everyday conversations
but has some difficulty understanding native speakers in situations
that require specialized or sophisticated knowledge. The individual's
utterances are minimally cohesive. Linguistic structure is usually
not very elaborate and not thoroughly controlled; errors are frequent.
Vocabulary use is appropriate for high-frequency utterances. but unusual
or imprecise elsewhere.
Examples: While these
interactions will vary widely from individual to individual, the individual
can typically ask and answer predictable questions in the workplace
and give straightforward instructions to subordinates. Additionally,
the individual can participate in personal and accommodation-type interactions
with elaboration and facility; that is, can give and understand complicated,
detailed, and extensive directions and make non-routine changes in
travel and accommodation arrangements. Simple structures and basic
grammatical relations are typically controlled; however, there are
areas of weakness. In the commonly taught languages, these may be simple
markings such as plurals, articles, linking words, and negatives or
more complex structures such as tense/aspect usage, case morphology.
passive constructions, word order, and embedding. (Has been coded S-2
in some nonautomated applications.) [Data Code 20]
2+ (Limited Working Proficiency, Plus) Able to satisfy most work requirements with language
usage that is often, but not always, acceptable and effective. The
individual shows considerable ability to communicate effectively on
topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence.
Often shows a high degree of fluency and ease of speech, yet when under
tension or pressure, the ability to use the language effectively may
deteriorate. Comprehension of normal native speech is typically nearly
complete. The individual may miss cultural and local references and
may require a native speaker to adjust to his/her limitations in some
ways. Native speakers often perceive the individual's speech to contain
awkward or inaccurate phrasing of ideas, mistaken time, space and person
references, or to be in some way inappropriate, if not strictly incorrect.
the individual can participate in most social, formal, and informal
interactions, but limitations either in range of contexts, types of
tasks or level of accuracy hinder effectiveness. The individual may
be ill at ease with the use of the language either in social interaction
or in speaking at length in professional contexts. He/she is generally
strong in either structural precision or vocabulary, but not in both.
Weakness or unevenness in one of the foregoing, or in pronunciation,
occasionally results in miscommunication. Normally controls, but cannot
always easily produce general vocabulary. Discourse is often incohesive.
(Has been coded S-2+ in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
3 (General Professional Proficiency) Able to speak the language with sufficient structural
accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and
informal conversations in practical, social and professional topics.
Nevertheless, the individual's limitations generally restrict the professional
contexts of language use to matters of shared knowledge and/or international
convention. Discourse is cohesive. The individual uses the language
acceptably, but with some noticeable imperfections; yet, errors virtually
never interfere with understanding and rarely disturb the native speaker.
The individual can effectively combine structure and vocabulary to
convey his/her meaning accurately. The individual speaks readily and
fills pauses suitably. In face-to-face conversation with natives speaking
the standard dialect at a normal rate of speech, comprehension is quite
complete. Although cultural references, proverbs and the implications
of nuances and idiom may not be fully understood, the individual can
easily repair the conversation. Pronunciation may be obviously foreign.
Individual sounds are accurate: but stress, intonation and pitch control
may be faulty.
Examples: Can typically
discuss particular interests and special fields of competence with
reasonable ease. Can use the language as part of normal professional
duties such as answering objections, clarifying points, justifying
decisions, understanding the essence of challenges, stating and defending
policy, conducting meetings, delivering briefings, or other extended
and elaborate informative monologues. Can reliably elicit information
and informed opinion from native speakers. Structural inaccuracy is
rarely the major cause of misunderstanding. Use of structural devices
is flexible and elaborate. Without searching for words or phrases,
the individual uses the language clearly and relatively naturally to
elaborate concepts freely and make ideas easily understandable to native
speakers. Errors occur in low-frequency and highly complex structures.
(Has been coded S-3 in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
3+ (General Professional Proficiency, Plus) Is often able to use the language to satisfy professional
needs in a wide range of sophisticated and demanding tasks.
Examples: Despite obvious
strengths, may exhibit some hesitancy, uncertainty, effort or errors
which limit the range of language-use tasks that can be reliably performed.
Typically there is particular strength in fluency and one or more,
but not all, of the following: breadth of lexicon, including low- and
medium-frequency items, especially socio-linguistic/cultural references
and nuances of close synonyms; structural precision, with sophisticated
features that are readily, accurately and appropriately controlled
(such as complex modification and embedding in Indo-European languages);
discourse competence in a wide range of contexts and tasks, often matching
a native speaker's strategic and organizational abilities and expectations.
Occasional patterned errors occur in low frequency and highly-complex
structures. (Has been coded S-3+ in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
4 (Advanced Professional Proficiency) Able to use the language fluently and accurately
on all levels normally pertinent to professional needs. The individual's
language usage and ability to function are fully successful. Organizes
discourse well, using appropriate rhetorical speech devices, native
cultural references and understanding. Language ability only rarely
hinders him/her in performing any task requiring language; yet, the
individual would seldom be perceived as a native. Speaks effortlessly
and smoothly and is able to use the language with a high degree of
effectiveness, reliability and precision for all representational purposes
within the range of personal and professional experience and scope
of responsibilities. Can serve as an informal interpreter in a range
of unpredictable circumstances. Can perform extensive, sophisticated
language tasks, encompassing most matters of interest to well-educated
native speakers, including tasks which do not bear directly on a professional
Examples: Can discuss
in detail concepts which are fundamentally different from those of
the target culture and make those concepts clear and accessible to
the native speaker. Similarly, the individual can understand the details
and ramifications of concepts that are culturally or conceptually different
from his/her own. Can set the tone of interpersonal official, semi-official
and non-professional verbal exchanges with a representative range of
native speakers (in a range of varied audiences, purposes, tasks and
settings). Can play an effective role among native speakers in such
contexts as conferences, lectures and debates on matters of disagreement.
Can advocate a position at length, both formally and in chance encounters,
using sophisticated verbal strategies. Understands and reliably produces
shifts of both subject matter and tone. Can understand native speakers
of the standard and other major dialects in essentially any face-to-face
interaction. (Has been coded S-4 in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
4+ (Advanced Professional Proficiency, Plus) Speaking proficiency is regularly superior in
all respects, usually equivalent to that of a well educated, highly
articulate native speaker. Language ability does not impede the performance
of any language-use task. However, the individual would not necessarily
be perceived as culturally native.
Examples: The individual
organizes discourse well. employing functional rhetorical speech devices,
native cultural references and understanding. Effectively applies a
native speaker's social and circumstantial knowledge; however, cannot
sustain that performance under all circumstances. While the individual
has a wide range and control of structure, an occasional nonnative
slip may occur. The individual has a sophisticated control of vocabulary
and phrasing that is rarely imprecise, yet there are occasional weaknesses
in idioms, colloquialisms, pronunciation, cultural reference or there
may be an occasional failure to interact in a totally native manner.
(Has been coded S-4+ in some nonautomated applications.) [Data
5 (Functionally Native Proficiency) Speaking proficiency is functionally equivalent
to that of a highly articulate well-educated native speaker and reflects
the cultural standards of the country where the language is natively
spoken. The individual uses the language with complete flexibility
and intuition, so that speech on all levels is fully accepted by well-educated
native speakers in all of its features, including breadth of vocabulary
and idiom, colloquialisms and pertinent cultural references. Pronunciation
is typically consistent with that of well-educated native speakers
of a non-stigmatized dialect. (Has been coded S-5 in some nonautomated
applications.)  [Data Code 50]