Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What's your Spanish Level?

What's Your Spanish Level?

[editing note: this is a published rough draft. Needs fewer words. Needs pictures. Needs better structure and a word level check. Could use a reference to methods to improve your level, with focus on grammar, production, integrating the skills etc. Calls to action are fun - ask people to take the test and post current and goal in there. Maybe a note about critical hypothesis contrasted with what time kids in immersion put in vs what people normally put in, or make that another article.]

Did you know there is an international system for judging foreign language proficiency? There is! "CEFR" is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Knowing your CEFR level can be useful when speaking with potential employers, or tracking your own progress.

The basic idea is that there are three levels of language user, "Basic" or "A", "Independent" or "B", and "Proficient" or "C". Within each of these types there are two levels so you can be an A1 if you just learned how to ask for beer, or a C2 if you just finished your Masters Thesis in the local language while studying abroad.

So first of all, head on over and take some tests from beginner, continuing to each higher level test until you no longer pass. 

As a personal example, when I first took these, I was A2 in Spanish. Hey! Not bad! But I want to get to B2 in one year and C2 in two years.

Now here is the part I think is fun. You can use this language level knowledge to help you set and achieve a real language learning goal. There is research showing how long it takes to reach each level, and if you know your current level and goal, you can budget the right amount of time to achieve your goal in the time you want.

If you look at the typical amount of time to reach a level, take the worst case time estimate, and assume that French and Spanish are roughly comparable (they are), it looks like I had the equivalent of 200 hours of study already, and needed 650 total for B2 and 1200 (!!) for C2. That's a difference of 450 hours for this year, and 1000 hours for C2 over the next two years. That's about 10 hours a week.

This was incredibly informative for me because I was already signed up for 5 hours a week of Spanish lessons with a private tutor, but that obviously wasn't nearly enough to reach my personal goal! After a year I'd only barely achieve B1 and probably still have difficulty holding normal conversations.

So how does this help? I realized that I needed to add a lot of individual vocabulary study, and that I needed to do some of my pleasure reading in Spanish. Then I converted some of my weekly tutoring time into book-club style discussions, and also used some of the time for focused vocabulary question/answer on words I had studied independently but wasn't sure about. With this combination I successfully went from A2 to B2 in the expected year, and am on my way to C2 with steady progress.

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