Nov 22, 2010

What's my level?

It's natural to wonder about your level when you're learning a language. It's also important to think about the concept of levels and ask why we have them. For teachers, determining a student's level may be important in order to place the student in a group, or to plan an appropriate course. We often talk about levels with adjectives like "elementary," "intermediate," "advanced," etc. Our teaching resources are generally labeled with these levels.

Aside from being an organizational tool, however, the concept of levels can be problematic. When you get off the train in London and need to ask someone for directions, he or she won't care what level you have according to your academy, or whether or not you've passed the First Certificate. The question will be whether you can communicate. As I wrote in an earlier post, communication is really the objective of learning a language. It's possible that communication has as much to do with your intention and your attitude than with your pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.

I don't mean to say that you shouldn't care about your level or try to improve it. In fact, I think it's important to keep trying to improve in your native language too! My only point is that after we've used the concept of levels to organize a class, it's a good idea to move on to communication, and realize that even people with an "elementary" level can be great communicators!

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