Learning A Foreign Language (Part 2)

In “Learning A Foreign Language (Part 1)” I recounted my life-time history with languages.

Here is an update of my proficiency in each language I studied and a self-assesment test so you can measure your own language skills.

My Languages


  • January 2013 Proficiency – Native
  • January 2013 Levels – Listening C2, Reading C2, Spoken Int. c2, Spoken Production c2, Writing c2
  • 2013 Goals – None


  • October 2011, I was in my prime after 3 months in Colombia.
  • January 2013 Proficiency – Advanced
  • January 2013 Levels – Listening B2, Reading C1, Spoken Int. C1, Spoken Production C1, Writing B2
  • 2013 Goals – Read a book.


  • June 2012, I was in my prime after 6 months in Brasil, studying.
  • January 2013 Proficiency – Advanced
  • January 2013 Levels – Listening B1, Reading B2, Spoken Int. B1, Spoken Production B2, Writing B1
  • 2013 Goals – Maybe Read a book.


  • September 2011, I was in my prime after 3 months in Italy, studying.
  • January 2013 Proficiency – Beginner
  • January 2013 Levels – Listening A2, Reading A2, Spoken Int. A2, Spoken Production A2, Writing A2
  • 2013 Goals – None.


  • 2001-2002, I was in my prime after 5 years of study in school and 2 years at University as well as travel in French-speaking Morocco, Canada, & France. Since that time I have forgotten a lot.
  • January 2013 Proficiency – Beginner
  • January 2013 Levels – Listening A1, Reading A1, Spoken Int. 0, Spoken Production 0, Writing 0
  • 2013 Goals – If I find a French school in an Asian city I may study for 2-4 weeks. After some hasty research it seems possible.


  • I more interested to improve my existing languages than learn something new.
  • But, all my foreign languages are Latin languages. It would be a welcome challenge to learn a very different language.
  • No plan yet for my next language.

Measuring Language Proficiency

There are several scales used to demonstrate foreign language proficiency. The one I see used at language schools I’ve visited is the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The following self-assesment is designed based on the CEFR scale.



  • A1 – I can understand familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.
  • A2 – I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.
  • B1 – I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programmes on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.
  • B2 – I can understand extended speech and lectures and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar. I can understand most TV news and current affairs programmes. I can understand the majority of films in standard dialect.
  • C1 – I can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships are only implied and not signalled explicitly. I can understand television programmes and films without too much effort.
  • C2 – I have no difficulty in understanding any kind of spoken language, whether live or broadcast, even when delivered at fast native speed, provided I have some time to get familiar with the accent.


  • A1 – I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
  • A2 – I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
  • B1 – I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
  • B2 – I can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints. I can understand contemporary literary prose.
  • C1 – I can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style. I can understand specialised articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to my field.
  • C2 – I can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialised articles and literary works.


Spoken Interaction

  • A1 – I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
  • A2 – I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
  • B1 – I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
  • B2 – I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views.
  • C1 – I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. I can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes. I can formulate ideas and opinions with precision and relate my contribution skilfully to those of other speakers.
  • C2 – I can take part effortlessly in any conversation or discussion and have a good familiarity with idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms. I can express myself fluently and convey finer shades of meaning precisely. If I do have a problem I can backtrack and restructure around the difficulty so smoothly that other people are hardly aware of it.

Spoken Production

  • A1 – I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
  • A2 – I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
  • B1 – I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
  • B2 – I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest. I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
  • C1 – I can present clear, detailed descriptions of complex subjects integrating sub-themes, developing particular points and rounding off with an appropriate conclusion.
  • C2 – I can present a clear, smoothly-flowing description or argument in a style appropriate to the context and with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points.


  • A1 – I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
  • A2 – I can write short, simple notes and messages. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
  • B1 – I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
  • B2 – I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests. I can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. I can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.
  • C1 – I can express myself in clear, well-structured text, expressing points of view at some length. I can write about complex subjects in a letter, an essay or a report, underlining what I consider to be the salient issues. I can select a style appropriate to the reader in mind.
  • C2 – I can write clear, smoothly-flowing text in an appropriate style. I can write complex letters, reports or articles which present a case with an effective logical structure which helps the recipient to notice and remember significant points. I can write summaries and reviews of professional or literary works.