Levels in language learning, what are they for?

I have been a language learner since the age of 18, and have really gotten keen since the age of 55. I have never been curious to know what my “objective” level was in the language, as if such a thing existed. I usually felt I knew my own strengths and weaknesses.

This issue has now come up as a result of the recent introduction of the avatar system. We are learning our way. I am curious to know what others expect from “levels”.

To me, any description of a language level other than “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced” is quite arbitrary, and inherently inaccurate. I have met people who have passed this or that test and did not speak well. On the other hand I know people who speak well who have never passed any test. When I read the detailed descriptions of the competence levels required for A1 or C2 in the CEF, or the Canadian Language Benchmarks system, my eyes glaze over.

It is not hard to tell how well a person speaks by speaking with them for one minute. Reading a page of text written by someone, tells us their writing level. I don’t worry about my own level, not when I am listening and enjoying the language, nor when I am reading and enjoying the language, nor when I am speaking and enjoying the language. I am , at all times, well aware of my gaps and shortcomings, and motivated to improve. I never feel the need to know if I am Intermediate1 or 2, or B2 or whatever.

What is the importance of language levels to others?

To me, they don’t reflect how much I kow just how hard I have been working. The levels on LingQ give me goals to work towards.

Levels in language learning would help me to locate myself. For example, in few weeks I will look for a new job in which I will need english skills. But right now I don’t know my level. I only know that when I speak with people we can communicate, but in a job, I need more. That’s why, I 've decided to work hard my english and take the Toeic test in order to know my official level.

Steeve, you say that with some written sentences you can say the level people has. Which is mine?

James, that is the purpose of the statistics and goals at LingQ. It is my belief that language learning is largely a matter of acquiring vocabulary, words and phrases. If we do that honestly, that is via a lot of listening and reading such as as LingQ, we will acquire a solid base in the language, a familiarity with the language, an ability to understand the language which we will not easily use. To convert that into active speaking and writing prowess we need to speak and write, more and more.

The known words total, is sort of like the mechanical rabbit that the greyhounds chase in the dog races. It need not be scientifically accurate, it just needs to keep moving. We are working to make sure that these numbers are accurate, since there were some problems and discrepancies. We hope to have that problem behind us by tomorrow.

Yeah, the badge gives me a rough idea of how many words I’ll recognise. I believe the same thing as well. Afterall, a language isn’t made up of grammar rules, A1s nor intermediates, but words, phrases and sentences.

The things that help me most though are the reports at the end of any marked piece of writing or speaking (I haven’t yet tried speaking on here but I do have enough points so I may try it soon). They show me how well I can communicate.

James, I do not write although I should. The discussion reports I get after my conversations are great.

I’ll do so soon then!

hi Cecil
I just want to say that, a few days ago I’ve taken the TOEIC exam ,
and my result was 940 points with something around 13000 known words here at LingQ,
so yours should be even higher :slight_smile:

Cecile, you seem to me to be between intermediate and advanced. You made only a few mistakes, and they may have been typos or spelling mistakes like the spelling of my name. But then I am probably the champion here at making typos or leaving out words.

Cecile, what matters is the kind of vocabulary and language patterns that you need for your job. One simple paragraph such as the one you wrote is really not enough. A page of writing on a serious subject, perhaps related to the job you are aspiring to get, would be a better indicator.

The important thing is that your English is good enough for most jobs. I would make sure I focus on content related to your future job. As for preparing for TOEIC, make sure you do a lot of reading, and listening, work on the TOEIC word lists that you can find on the web, and find some examples of previous tests just to make sure you are familiar with the nature of the test.

Ops… it should be “Cecile”

I’m afraid I’m going to be treated like a freak, but I believe that using the self-assessment grid provided in the Common European Framework (I’ll provide the link at the bottom of my post) is the best way to assess your language skill. Provided you understand English at a decent level and are able to comprehend what you read, you can really make use of it. By using this simple chart I’m able to evaluate my language skills precisely enough - and it also enables me to locate my weaknesses.

For those of you, who might be interested, here’s the link:

No one is a freak or it may be me that is a freak. We want free discussion here with lots of different points of view. Thanks for your comment.

@Adrian : That’s a very good news! Congratulation ! I really don’t know yet what could be my score, but 940 is very high since the maximum is 990 !

@ oups, sorry Steve ! Thanks for these advices. I plan to take the test in two months, so I will everyday work on my english until the exam. I have found interesting blogs about things I love. So very regularly I quickly import thanks the bookmark articles (very good idea!) and read them. I receive every week The Times (paper) which I read almost easily, I am really surprised about it. I plan to have once a week a 30-minute-conversation with Monica which is a very good and dynamic tutor. I have only worked with her once but I liked it very much, we did a lot of things in only 30 minutes. I 've just bought a book about Toeic to know and try some exercices. To my mind I have every tools in my hands to get a very good score!

The trouble with levels is that they sound like they ought to mean more than they do.

If you are going to assess your level in a language, then it would be realistic to recognise that you may have wildly different levels in speaking, listening, reading and writing. The only way your skills could all be at exactly the same level is if you have been learning on a very structured course designed to keep your skills in step.

An exam like IELTS breaks the assessment into 4 areas, and gives candidates their score for each skill area and averages them to give an overall level. Many students get wildly differing scores for each skill area, which makes their “overall score” not particularly meaningful.

Supposing a more accurate language skills assessment consisted of 16 different scores, with each of the 4 major skill areas broken down into 4 sub-areas. How many would want to assess all their skill areas regularly and keep track of improvements? And how many would decide, like Steve, that it’s probably not that important to accurately measure your improvement, as long as you recognise that it’s happening?

For me I have a particular level that I am working towards, which is fluency. Fluency is a very subjective term, so I looked online for descriptions of levels, and the CEFR level C1 describes what I am working toward. I like the fact that it explains the 4 language skills. In this way I am able to assess myself more reliably, and I know what I need to work on to reach my goal.

I’ve never ever cared about my “level” in any language. To me that would feel like a burden, I just try to have fun and keep learning. I just feel having different categorization of levels I would feel a bit disappointed if I don’t get to a new level quickly.

The way I work, a new word or grammar rule I learn is pretty much another level I’ve conquered. This keeps my motivation very high on a daily basis.

I wonder how native speaker, or more that part of native speaker, which have different problems with their own language, would pass that kind of tests in his mother tongue. I am standing in my own way because of the guess that I am not skilled enough in a foreign language. On the other hand I know a lot of people around me which have problems with writing letters and reading articles or books in her own language or even with communicating in smaller circle or anymore in front of a bigger group. And I don’t mean people born in a foreign country with less language skills.

I have just realized that the levels have been renamed. Beginner 1 and 2, Intermediate 1 and 2, Advanced 1 and 2 have become levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Is there a particular reason for this change?

So many people I talk to assume that C2 is the goal and beat themselves up daily for not being there yet.

@blackydierennmaus wrote: “I wonder how native speaker, or more that part of native speaker, which have different problems with their own language, would pass that kind of tests in his mother tongue.”

I like to think I’ve reached C2 in my native tongue, but it took years of study and professional training to get there. And yet I would still not reach the highest band in an English language exam like IELTS, unless I spent about 100 hours practising giving the answers in the correct exam format. I know many native speakers who wouldn’t score above B2, and at least one who wouldn’t get above A2 (although he is very small).

Getting to B2 comprehension in a foreign language is good, really good. And B1 speaking and writing is good too. I would love to see more people relaxing and having fun with learning languages, rather than pushing themselves hard for years because they aren’t perfect yet.