The University of Texas at Austin
The College of Liberal Arts

Spanish Corpus Proficiency Level Training

These are the levels you will use for the criteria to evaluate each Spanish learner.

Beginner


Communicates minimally using learned material: isolated words, short phrases and frequent long pauses. May repeat interlocutor's words. Communicates simple, elementary needs and basic courtesies.

Beginner-Intermediate

Can partially fulfill basic communicative exchanges using learned utterances, sometimes expanded through simple recombinations of elements, with frequent errors. Can ask questions/make statements with learned material, showing signs of spontaneity.

Intermediate


Can create language by combining learned elements, mainly in reactions. Can communicate successfully in a limited number of uncomplicated task-based and social situations: ask/answer questions, initiate/respond to simple statements, and maintain a limited conversation, with frequent errors and long pauses.

Intermediate-Advanced

Can communicate successfully in most uncomplicated tasks and social situations. Can initiate, sustain and close a general conversation with strategies appropriate to a range of circumstances and topics, but with errors. Hesitation due to limited vocabulary but there is emerging evidence of connected discourse.

Advanced


Can converse fairly easily, in a wide variety of everyday communicative tasks. Can handle complicated tasks and social situations, although not with ease. Can narrate and describe with some details, and can communicate facts about topics of current public and personal interest, using general vocabulary.

Foreign language proficiency is a term used by researchers, educators, and students of foreign languages to refer to a person's ability to communicate in the target language. For native English speakers to communicate in Spanish as a foreign language, they must have a range of knowledge and skill in using the language. Because language learning is an ongoing process of improving that knowledge and skill, which varies according to the individual, a given language learner at a given time will demonstrate a certain level of proficiency that can be assessed and described. We will examine some of the aspects of language proficiency below.


The language skills are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This website looks mainly at the speaking skill, although in a dialogue, communicating also involves listening and understanding. The exercises on this website, however, focus on language learners' ability to speak.


This proficiency rating might be open to interpretation, especially since this is such a short video and thus a small sample of the learner's language. Throughout this website, you are encouraged to watch several videos from a single learner, and to observe the learner speaking about different topics of varying levels of difficulty in order to accurately rate the learner's proficiency.

Foreign language proficiency is a term used by researchers, educators, and students of foreign languages to refer to a person's ability to communicate in the target language. For native English speakers to communicate in Spanish as a foreign language, they must have a range of knowledge and skill in using the language. Because language learning is an ongoing process of improving that knowledge and skill, which varies according to the individual, a given language learner at a given time will demonstrate a certain level of proficiency that can be assessed and described. We will examine some of the aspects of language proficiency below.


The language skills are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This website looks mainly at the speaking skill, although in a dialogue, communicating also involves listening and understanding. The exercises on this website, however, focus on language learners' ability to speak.

  1. Which of the following is most important in being able to communicate in a foreign language?

    1. Grammar
    2. Vocabulary
  2. What are some indications of learners who do not know much Spanish?

  3. Guess this learner's proficiency level!

    Learners at this level tend to make many errors

Grammar

  1. If you were to examine the speech of someone who is barely at Beginner-Intermediate Level in language proficiency (one level up from a beginner), would you expect:

    Learners of this level make lots of errors of various kinds, and many times it is difficult to understand the person due to all the different types of errors

  2. Let's say you wanted to look at the speech of a learner who is at the Advanced Level, and that "Advanced" represented someone who had studied Spanish for 4 years at a university, with some time spent abroad. If you were to look at an Advanced learner's grammatical accuracy when talking about a more difficult, abstract topic, what would you find?

    Learners at this level still make errors, especially when talking about unfamiliar, abstract topics. These learners also have problems with conversation management and organization of the answer

  3. What kind of grammatical errors would you expect to be most prevalent in the talk of the Advanced learner described above, who had studied Spanish 4 years at the university with some time abroad, when describing their most frightening experience?

    Although learners of this level still make mistakes in all these areas, it seems that consistent noun-adjective agreement is one of the last grammatical elements that are truly mastered. By the advanced level, the learner should be able to form the preterite and imperfect conjugations, although there may still be errors on correct use of aspectual distinctions.

Vocabulary

  1. If you had to evaluate a learner's Spanish vocabulary usage as he/she speaks, what would make you think the learner was at a fairly low level regarding vocabulary?

    Learners of this very beginning level cannot say much because they do not know much vocabulary.

  2. What kind of vocabulary might you expect a fairly high level learner to use when defending her opinion about an abstract topic like politics to a group of somewhat familiar listeners?

    Advanced level learners can converse easily (without much fumbling for words) if the topics are of everyday occurrences but have to search for words in more difficult topics and situations.

  3. If a person has to keep searching for a needed word, what happens to the fluency and flow of the speech?

    The speaker normally will stop to look for a word, or will put in a filler like "um" or "uh", which makes the speech seem hesitant and choppy.

  4. If a learner at an intermediate level does not know a word and is speaking to a Spanish speaker who probably does not know English, what is a typical way to work around the problem?

    Learners at this level often use fillers or pauses to keep the floor while talking to others.

Generalizations

  1. Think about the learner's talk. What was one characteristic of her speech that marked her level as being somewhat less than a completely Intermediate speaker?

    The learner's frequent silent stretches show that she is experiencing great difficulties in expressing herself on the simple topic of describing her family.

  2. What would you expect regarding the "flow" of words from a more proficient Advanced level speaker, after a semester of study abroad in Spain or Mexico, in describing her family?

    Speakers of this level still may pause but the pauses do not sound awkward, such as in finding the correct conjugation of a verb, and the flow is fairly even in these basic descriptions.

  3. What do learners who lack fluency usually do when speaking?

Conversation Management

  1. If Advanced learners want to take a turn in a conversation with a native Spanish speaker they don't know well, what do they often do to signal that they want the floor?

    This is a common first response that usually works with a speaker who is paying attention to the listener. If it doesn't work, then inserting oneself in the conversation by talking loudly as soon as there is an open spot is probably an appropriate next step.

  2. If Advanced learners want to give up their turn with a native Spanish speaker they don't know well, what do they often do to signal they want to give up the floor?

    The signals to give up the floor are usually very subtle, and more advanced learners have usually acquired the signals.

  3. If an Advanced learner wants to change a topic or make the talk go in a different direction, how can this be done smoothly?

    The more conversationally-skilled learner will try to connect what was said earlier to the new topic, such as saying "Hablando de casas, acabo de mudarme a una casa nueva." The transition should not be too abrupt.

  4. How much talk would you expect in an elaborate answer from an Advanced learner with study abroad experience on the topic of what he/she thinks of using hybrid cars to solve the energy problem and why?

    The Advanced level speaker with this much experience should be able to put together a cohesive, paragraph-like answer, with a topic sentence and elaborated supporting reasons for the answer.


Please be aware that answers may vary according to subjective evaluations. Also, in answering the questions, the viewer should answer according to the particular video that is playing. There may also be more than one correct answer to a given question.