Language Proficiency Interview (LPI)

One of the things I noticed during my LPI was my new ability to speak in Chinese to help me speak better Chinese (circumlocution)! For example, if I wanted to describe a car's characteristics in Chinese, but I didn't know the Chinese word for 'engine' I would talk about the machine inside the car that makes it go and ask what the word for that machine was. After the tester told me the word I would continue speaking and use the new word in place of the string of words describing that object.

I received the results of my LPI: Advanced Low. This is according to the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages scale (ACTFL), and roughly corresponds to a 2 on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale (ILR). People had asked how this would correspond to a number of college courses completed, but colleges use these scales if they want to determine a student's level (specific classes in college are not geared to assess language proficiency in such a comprehensive way). I could say that I have completed two semesters of Chinese texts during my last semester, but I believe my speaking and listening ability is higher than a student who has studied Chinese in college for one year. In any case, the following is the ACTFL explanation of my current level:

Speakers at the Advanced-Low level are able to handle a variety of communicative tasks, although somewhat haltingly at times. They participate actively in most informal and a limited number of formal conversations on activities related to school, home, and leisure activities and, to a lesser degree, those related to events of work, current, public, and personal interest or individual relevance.

Advanced-Low speakers demonstrate the ability to narrate and describe in all major time frames (past, present and future) in paragraph length discourse, but control of aspect may be lacking at times. They can handle appropriately the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar, though at times their discourse may be minimal for the level and strained. Communicative strategies such as rephrasing and circumlocution may be employed in such instances. In their narrations and descriptions, they combine and link sentences into connected discourse of paragraph length. When pressed for a fuller account, they tend to grope and rely on minimal discourse. Their utterances are typically not longer than a single paragraph. Structure of the dominant language is still evident in the use of false cognates, literal translations, or the oral paragraph structure of the speaker's own language rather than that of the target language.

While the language of Advanced-Low speakers may be marked by substantial, albeit irregular flow, it is typically somewhat strained and tentative, with noticeable self-correction and a certain 'grammatical roughness.' The vocabulary of Advanced-Low speakers is primarily generic in nature.

Advanced-Low speakers contribute to the conversation with sufficient accuracy, clarity, and precision to convey their intended message without misrepresentation or confusion, and it can be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though this may be achieved through repetition and restatement. When attempting to perform functions or handle topics associated with the Superior level, the linguistic quality and quantity of their speech will deteriorate significantly.

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