WHAT IS LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ?
Ministers plan a new grading qualification in languages, likened to music
grades or cycling proficiency. But what is basic proficiency? We asked
Linda Parker, of the Association for Language Learning, and Derek Winslow,
chief executive of the Languages National Training Organisation. They
say you should:
" Be able to say "hello" and use courtesy phrases such
as please / thank you / you're welcome / excuse me / it doesn't matter,
in your chosen language.
" Be able to say who you are and where you are from and ask another
" Be able to explain how much (or how little) of the foreign language
" Be able to count from 1 to 100 and ask how much things cost.
" Be able to order food and drink, such as a three- course meal in
a restaurant, pay the bill, leave a tip and check your change.
" Be able to ask for help in an emergency, and name the emergency
" Be able to book a hotel room or buy a travel ticket.
" Be able to exchange e-mails and make and receive telephone calls
in the foreign language.
" Have at least a basic knowledge of the culture of the country whose
language you speak.
" Realise that other countries do things differently, and that this
doesn't make them better, or worse - just different.
" Above all, be confident, tolerant and understanding.
How do you compare?
Half of all Europeans say that they can speak at least one European
language in addition to their mother tongue. One in four say that they
can speak two European foreign languages. In Europe, English is most spoken,
with 41% boasting it as their first foreign language. Of these, one in
three regards themselves as proficient. The most commonly spoken second
languages after English are: French, 19%; German, 10%; Spanish, 7% In
Britain, by contrast, 66% of adults cannot speak a second language at
(Reprinted by kind permission of The Independent newspaper 19 Dec 2002)
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