New ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (revised)

The link below takes you to a comprehensive reference site for the 2012 revision of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The complete narrative version of the guidelines is included along with exemplars for each of the four skills and for the major levels of Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior and Distinguished. Initially uploaded exemplars are in English but language-specific exemplars are being added at this point in time.

Setting Proficiency Targets

Many language professionals are coming to realize that setting proficiency targets for each course that is taught better ensures movement toward language performance over covering pages in textbooks. Below are examples of targets set by various schools and school districts throughout the United States.

Student-Friendly Proficiency Descriptors

Most students come to the foreign language class wanting to learn to use the language for meaningful purposes, so they come motivated to this end. Arming them with information about what it means to be "proficient" by teaching them that there are levels and that certain language functions "live" within each level helps them understand the process of language learning, helps them pace themselves and be less frustrated and helps them set and achieve their own language goals which might even exceed those set by a teacher.

Using the exact wording of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, however, may not be the most inspiring way to inform our students of the target we are working toward. This is because the Guidelines are written in such way that the Distinguished Level sounds exceptionally good but all levels below that are explanations of why one is not Distinguished. So, that kind of language generally does not lead to much motivation from learners. To counter that, the descriptors below were designed to be used in districts who set targets similar to those of Jefferson County Public Schools (noted above). They are written in student-friendly language and with a slant toward what the language user CAN do as opposed to what they CAN'T do.

Moving Up the Proficiency Ladder

The files below can be printed as posters and placed in classrooms so that students can see where they currently are in their language abilities and what they have to do to move to the next. Several schools post these in each classroom as a reminder of the targeted proficiency for specific courses and also to encourage students to set their own proficiency goals.