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Module 2.9 Advanced High/Superior

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Module 2.9 Advanced High-Superior

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.9

ACTFL Level: Advanced High/Superior

Topic: Politics

Interview Prompt: ¿Es importante saber de la política si eres estudiante?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Express opinions about abstract/controversial issues
  • Support opinions about abstract/controversial issues in response to objections/arguments
  • Produce coherent argumentation in extended discourse
  • Use anecdotes only to support arguments, not in place of them
  • Control use of subjunctive and other low-frequency or complex structures
  • Easily use paraphrasing and other strategies to compensate for gaps in lexical knowledge
  • Errors still present, but do not distract from the content of the discourse

More About the Advanced High/Superior Speaker: Speakers at the Advanced High/Superior level can participate in conversations on practical, social, professional, and controversial topics. They speak in extended discourse to present, elaborate on, and defend a point of view. They can also provide hypotheses and detailed descriptions to support their arguments by discussing the consequences of a possible course of action. They control low frequency and complex structures (e.g., various uses of the subjunctive) and an ample lexicon to present their arguments in a professional, formal manner.

To read full descriptions of the Advanced High and Superior levels, visit the ACTFL website, type “Speaking” into the search field, and click on the entry entitled “Speaking.” You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Advanced High/Superior speakers. The topic is politics. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Start by listening to how James and Tracy respond to this prompt: ¿Es importante saber de la política si eres estudiante? Their performances rate at Advanced High. Although neither language sample fulfills the criteria for the Superior level on the ACTFL scale, they provide a good starting point to understand the features of proficiency at this level. The prompt asks speakers for their opinion on the question of whether it is important for students to be informed about politics. Expressing an opinion is within the ability of Advanced High-level speakers, but to fulfill the criteria of the Superior level, speakers must demonstrate their ability to express an opinion on a controversial topic, support that opinion in response to objections, and elaborate on both the opinion and the consequences of a hypothetical course of action (e.g. what students could accomplish if they engaged in political activism).

James’s performance falls short of the Superior level; he doesn’t maintain his discourse in Spanish and he expresses his ideas in a fragmented way, failing in some cases to complete his thoughts. In contrast, Tracy does express an opinion grounded in the issue, and she lists politically oriented topics that she herself is interested in. She does express the opinion that if students banded together, they could possibly influence legislation at the state level. Her response gives evidence of performance at the Superior level, but because the segment ends after she states her opinion, she does not have the opportunity to expand on the opinion or to support it in the face of objections.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question at the Advanced High/Superior level. Start by deciding what position to take on the topic, and think of it as a social issue that goes beyond your interests or those of your friends. It is helpful to recall what you know about political activism by students, either recent/current or in the past. Practice stating your opinion, and then think how you could expand on that opinion. For example, if you believe that it is important for students to be politically informed and politically active, then think of two or three ways in which heightened political knowledge and activity benefits students as a group (e.g., potential impact on legislation that affects them) and on the wider society. Practice presenting these points to expand on your initial statement of your opinion.

Try to think abstractly (students in general, political knowledge and engagement in general), not simply focusing on some students or some issues. You should also be prepared to think about how you will support your opinion if the interviewer introduces an opposing perspective on the topic.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by James and Tracy. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you will see, in neither case does the interviewer ask the speaker to support his/her opinion. The interviewer has a major role in eliciting the opinion, the expansion of the opinion, and the support of the opinion, because speakers are not likely to talk at length about a controversial topic without this type of prompting.

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the prompt. Remember that your purpose is to have a discussion about an important topic in the wider society. Come up with three groups of questions that correspond to the types of language that you want to elicit: (a) questions that elicit the expansion of the initial statement of opinion; (b) questions ask the speaker to support that opinion in response to an opposing point of view; and (c) questions that ask the speaker to imagine the consequences of a hypothetical event. Some examples include:

  • Expanding on the opinion. En tu opinión, ¿es suficiente informarse sobre los temas políticos del momento, o es necesario ser políticamente active también? ¿Por qué?
  • Supporting the opinion. Comprendo lo que dices, pero algunas personas opinan lo opuesto—que es mejor que los estudiantes se dediquen a sus estudios, y que luego en el futuro, será el momento propicio para participar en discusiones y actividades políticas. ¿Cómo respondes a este argumento?
  • Hypothesizing about the consequences of a course of action. ¿Cuál sería el impacto en las campañas electorales si el 50% de los estudiantes universitarios trabajaran a favor de su candidato? ¿Afectaría el resultado de las elecciones presidenciales?

Work together to write more questions for these three elicitation purposes. As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of an intelligent, well-informed interlocutor who wants to engage the speaker in a serious intellectual discussion. Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 2–3 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the Preparation phase; you should not use any notes during this phase, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Es importante saber de la política si eres estudiante?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker express an opinion, support that opinion, and hypothesize about possible consequences?
  • Is the opinion well developed?
  • Is the speaker able to expand on the opinion and defend it against objections in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to link ideas together in coherent and sophisticated discourse?
  • Does the speaker control the constructions (e.g., subjunctive) needed to defend opinions and speak hypothetically?
  • Are grammatical errors few enough that they do not distract the listener from the message?
  • Is the speaker able to speak at length about ideas and concepts?
  • Does the speaker develop and sustain an argument?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Advanced High/Superior: Does not fulfill the criteria of the Superior level. Recounts experience rather than argue a point of view.
  • Advanced High/Superior. Fulfills the criteria for the task, and does so with ease and fluency consistently or most of the time. Produces a coherent argument, develops it, and supports it. Talks about ideas, principles, and issues, using anecdotes and examples only for (not instead of) illustration. Sometimes recounts experience rather than argue a point of view.
  • Above Advanced High/Superior: Fulfills and goes beyond the criteria for the task with ease and fluency.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask the speaker to expand on his/her initial statement of opinion?
  • Does the interviewer advance an opposing position to elicit supported opinion?
  • Does the interviewer maintain a formal tone and sustain the abstract, controversial nature of the topic?  
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Video(s) Referenced in this Module

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: James
  • Topic: Politics
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Tracy
  • Topic: Politics

Module 2.8 Advanced High/Superior

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Module 2.8 Advanced High-Superior

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.8

ACTFL Level: Advanced High/Superior

Topic: Sports

Interview Prompt: ¿Qué opinas de la importancia que se le da a los deportes en esta universidad?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Express opinions about abstract/controversial issues
  • Support opinions about abstract/controversial issues in response to objections/arguments
  • Produce coherent argumentation in extended discourse
  • Use anecdotes only to support arguments, not in place of them
  • Control use of subjunctive and other low-frequency or complex structures
  • Easily use paraphrasing and other strategies to compensate for gaps in lexical knowledge
  • Errors still present, but do not distract from the content of the discourse

More About the Advanced High/Superior Speaker: Speakers at the Advanced High/Superior level can participate in conversations on practical, social, professional, and controversial topics. They speak in extended discourse to present, elaborate on, and defend a point of view. They can also provide hypotheses and detailed descriptions to support their arguments by discussing the consequences of a possible course of action. They control low frequency and complex structures (e.g., various uses of the subjunctive) and an ample lexicon to present their arguments in a professional, formal manner.

To read full descriptions of the Advanced High and Superior levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Advanced High/Superior speakers. The topic is sports. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how James and Tracy respond to this prompt: ¿Qué opinas de la importancia que se le da a los deportes en esta universidad? Their performances rate at the Advanced High level. Although neither language sample fulfills the criteria for the Superior level on the ACTFL scale, they provide a good starting point to understand the features of proficiency at this level. The prompt asks speakers for their opinion on the importance given to sports at the University of Texas. The assumption is that the speakers will talk about the most popular and controversial sports, football and men’s basketball. Expressing an opinion is within the ability of Advanced High-level speakers, but to fulfill the criteria of the Superior level, speakers must demonstrate their ability to express an opinion on a controversial topic, support that opinion in response to objections, and elaborate on both the opinion and the consequences of a hypothetical course of action (e.g., reduce the coaches’ salaries; use the revenues from winning seasons to fund scholarships for non-athletes).

James’s performance falls far short of the Superior level; he cannot maintain his discourse in Spanish and he expresses his opinion on this controversial topic by grounding it in his own experiences and preferences, rather than discussing the issue in an abstract way.  In contrast, Tracy does express an opinion grounded in the issue—although she takes issue with the privileged status of sports over academics, she understands the importance of the money that sports programs generate for the university. Her response gives evidence of performance at the Superior level, but because the segment ends after she states her opinion, she does not have the opportunity to expand on the opinion or to support it in the face of objections.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question at the Advanced High/Superior level. Start by deciding what position to take on the topic, and think of it as a social issue that goes beyond universities. It is helpful to recall what you may have read about the topic in news magazines and editorials. Practice stating your opinion, and then think how you could expand on that opinion. For example, if you believe that the financial benefits of Division 1 sports programs justify their existence, then think of two or three ways in which the sports programs benefit the university and the surrounding community.

Practice presenting these points to expand on your initial statement of your opinion. Keep in mind that you must think abstractly (university sports programs in general), not only focusing on your experience with the teams, how much you enjoy going to the games, and so forth. You should also be prepared to think about how you will respond if the interviewer asks you to support your opinion by introducing an opposing perspective on the topic.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by James and Tracy. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you will see, in neither case does the interviewer ask the speaker to support his/her opinion. The interviewer in Tracy’s speech segment asks no follow-up questions at all; in the speech segment with James, the interviewer asks him to expand on his initial position, but does not offer an opposing perspective on the topic. The interviewer has a major role in eliciting the opinion, the expansion of the opinion, and the support of the opinion, because speakers are not likely to talk at length about a controversial topic without this type of prompting.

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to have a discussion about an important topic in the wider society. Come up with three groups of questions that correspond to the types of language that you want to elicit: (a) questions that elicit the expansion of the initial statement of opinion; (b) questions ask the speaker to support that opinion in response to an opposing point of view; and (c) questions that ask the speaker to imagine the consequences of a hypothetical event. Some examples include:

  • Expanding on the opinion. ¿Cómo traen dinero a la universidad los programas de deportes?
  • Supporting the opinion. Comprendo lo que dices, pero algunas personas dicen que cuando se les da tanta importancia a los programas de deportes, inevitablemente se les da mucho poder también y que este poder da lugar a mucha corrupción. ¿Cómo respondes a este argumento?
  • Hypothesizing about the consequences of a course of action. ¿Cuál sería el impacto de reducir el número de becas que se les da a los equipos de fútbol? ¿Afectaría la importancia de estos equipos a nivel institucional y a nivel nacional?

Work together to write more questions for these three elicitation purposes. As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of an intelligent, well-informed interlocutor who wants to engage the speaker in a serious intellectual discussion. Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 2–3 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the Preparation phase; you should not use any notes during this phase, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Qué opinas de la importancia que se le da a los deportes en esta universidad?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.


3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker express an opinion, support that opinion, and hypothesize about possible consequences?
  • Is the opinion well developed?
  • Is the speaker able to expand on the opinion and defend it against objections in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to link ideas together in coherent, sophisticated discourse? Does the speaker control the constructions (e.g., subjunctive) needed to defend opinions and speak hypothetically?
  • Are the grammatical errors few enough that they do not distract the listener from the message?
  • Is the speaker able to speak at length about ideas and concepts?
  • Does the speaker develop and sustain an argument?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Advanced High/Superior: Does not fulfill the criteria of the Superior level. Recounts experience rather than argue a point of view.
  • Advanced High/Superior. Fulfills the criteria for the task, and does so with ease and fluency consistently or most of the time. Produces a coherent argument, develops it, and supports it. Talks about ideas, principles, and issues, using anecdotes and examples only for (not instead of) illustration.  Sometimes recounts experience rather than argue a point of view.
  • Above Advanced High/Superior: Fulfills and goes beyond the criteria for the task with ease and fluency.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask the speaker to expand on his/her initial statement of opinion?
  • Does the interviewer advance an opposing position to elicit supported opinion?
  • Does the interviewer maintain a formal tone and sustain the abstract, controversial nature of the topic?  
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: James
  • Topic: Sports
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Tracy
  • Topic: Sports

Module 2.7 Advanced Low/Mid

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Module 2.7 Advanced Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.7

ACTFL Level: Advanced Low/Mid

Topic: Other Countries

Interview Prompt: ¿Has viajado a otros países? Cuéntame sobre tu viaje más reciente.

Features of speaker performance:

  • Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense
  • Express (and sometimes support) opinions on abstract issues
  • Explain and describe in detail
  • Produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences
  • Control distinction between preterite and imperfect in context of storytelling
  • Comprehensible to people who may not have experience with language learners

About the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker:

Speakers at the Advanced level can participate fluently and actively in a conversation. They can talk about a range of topics that are autobiographical or that relate to concrete events removed in time and/or space (e.g., tell a story about an event in the past; summarize something that happened on campus). They can talk in a coherent fashion to fulfill a variety of tasks, including narration, comparison and contrast, explanations; and they can talk about the past or the future, keeping their discourse in the appropriate time frame and, as they progress through the Advanced level (i.e., Advanced Mid and Advanced High), control the use of preterite and imperfect when narrating and describing in past time.

To read full descriptions of the Advanced Low and Advanced Mid levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Advanced Low/Mid speakers. The topic is other countries. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how Jessica and Laura respond to this prompt: ¿Has viajado a otros países? Cuéntame sobre tu viaje más reciente. Their language samples are good examples of performance at the Advanced Low/Mid level. The prompt asks for information about a recent trip, which checks the Advanced Low/Mid-level function of narration and description in past time. The task is similar to the one in Module 2.6, but the prompt does not direct the speaker to tell a story as clearly as the initial prompt for Module 2.6 does. The challenge for the interviewer is to phrase the initial prompt so that the speaker is pushed to tell a story, rather than to list a series of events (e.g., Primero fuimos a… Luego fuimos a… etc.), which does not check for the functions of the Advanced level. The challenges for the speaker are the same as for the task in Module 2.6 (a) to come up with an interesting story about the trip; (b) to recount the events with narrative and descriptive (contextual) detail; and (c) to control the linguistic elements needed to narrate and describe in past time.  

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question at the Advanced Low/Mid level. Take a minute to think of something memorable that happened on a recent trip. A helpful strategy is to recall a story you have told before—and it does not matter if it happened on a trip other than a recent one. Often, good stories involve crime, cultural or linguistic misunderstandings, or surprising coincidences. You should avoid talking about a beautiful sunset, a great day at the beach, or other events that cannot be easily recounted with substantial narrative and descriptive detail. Once you have a good story in mind, think of the details you will recount—first the events, and then the surrounding descriptive detail. Finally, be aware of the need to keep your discourse entirely in the past, and to distinguish between what happened (preterite) and what was going on at the time (imperfect). Your goal should be to recount a detailed and engaging story.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by Jessica and Laura. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks.  You may need to ask some additional questions to help the speaker think of a good story. Then, once the speaker begins to tell his/her story, you should ask brief questions that elicit additional details.  

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce an interesting story about a past event. Your questions might include these: ¿Qué estabas haciendo en el metro cuando…? (to elicit descriptive detail); ¿Y cómo reaccionaron tus padres cuando les dijiste…? (to elicit more narrative detail). As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of an engaged listener who is eager to hear the speaker’s story. Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 2–3 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during this phase, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cuál fue la experience más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.


3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce a story that includes lots of narrative and descriptive detail?
  • Is the context explained well, such that it would be comprehensible to listeners not familiar with the place, event, or people involved in the story?
  • Is the speaker able to produce additional information in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is (all or most of) the response comprehensible?
  • Is the speaker able to link sentences together to for more complex expressions?
  • Is the speaker able to keep his/her discourse in the past?
  • Does the speaker control the preterite and imperfect?
  • Does the speaker have the vocabulary needed to convey the details of the narrative?
  • Does the speaker tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end?
  • Does the speaker organize the story logically and coherently?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Intermediate High. Provides information about the event, but does not keep discourse in the past consistently.
  • Advanced Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, sometimes with ease and fluency. Sometimes produces a coherent story that focuses on the events and enriches them with descriptive details; sometimes nay not produce a long or detailed story. Sometimes more emphasis on events and less on descriptive detail. Keeps discourse in the past consistently, but may not deploy preterite and imperfect appropriately.
  • Advanced High. Goes beyond the criteria for the task by, for example, introducing dialogue, imitating the characters in the story, or discussing the social ramifications of the event.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they help the speaker expand on the events or descriptive detail of the story (e.g., ¿Tenías mucho miedo? [yes/no question] Cuéntame lo que pasó. [open-ended follow-up question])
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Laura
  • Topic: Other Countries
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Jessica
  • Topic: Other Countries

Module 2.6 Advanced Low/Mid

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Module 2.6 Advanced Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.6

ACTFL Level: Advanced Low/Mid

Topic: The Past

Interview Prompt: ¿Cuál fue la experienca más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense
  • Express (and sometimes support) opinions on abstract issues
  • Explain and describe in detail
  • Produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences
  • Control distinction between preterite and imperfect in context of storytelling
  • Comprehensible to people who may not have experience with language learners

About the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker:

Speakers at the Advanced level can participate fluently and actively in a conversation. They can talk about a range of topics that are autobiographical or that relate to concrete events removed in time and/or space (e.g., tell a story about an event in the past; summarize something that happened on campus). They can talk in a coherent fashion to fulfill a variety of tasks, including narration, comparison and contrast, explanations; and they can talk about the past or the future, keeping their discourse in the appropriate time frame and, as they progress through the Advanced level (i.e., Advanced Mid and Advanced High), control the use of preterite and imperfect when narrating and describing in past time.

To read full descriptions of the Advanced Low and Advanced Mid levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Advnced Low/Mid speakers. The topic is the past. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Start by listening to how Jessica and Laura respond to this prompt: ¿Cuál fue la experience más chocante para ti cuando eras joven? Their language samples are good examples of performance at the Advanced Low/Mid level. The prompt asks for a story about a memorable event, which checks the Advanced-level function of narration and description in past time. The challenges for the speaker are (a) to come up with a good story to tell; (b) to recount the events with narrative and descriptive (contextual) detail; and (c) to control the linguistic elements needed to narrate and describe in past time.  

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question at the Advanced Low/Mid level. Take a minute to think of a good story of something that happened to you as a child or young adult. It may trigger your memory if you quickly run though emotions that usually accompany a narrative of personal experience—terror, sorpresa, trauma, vergüenza, alegría—until a story comes to mind. Then think of the details you will recount—first the events, and then the surrounding descriptive detail. Finally, be aware of the need to keep your discourse entirely in the past, and to distinguish between what happened (preterite) and what was going on at the time (imperfect). Your goal should be to recount a detailed and engaging story.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by Jessica and Laura. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you will see, both speakers had trouble thinking of a story to tell. As an interviewer, you may need to ask some additional questions to help the speaker think of a good story. Running through some emotion words may help the speaker remember a good story; or, if you have been working with the same partner for awhile, you may know enough about his/her life to suggest some topics. Then, once the speaker begins to tell his/her story, you should ask brief questions that elicit additional details.  

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce an interesting story about a past event. Your questions should include these: ¿Pero qué hacía Fulano mientras…? (to elicit descriptive detail); ¿Y qué pasó después? (to elicit more narrative detail). As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of an engaged listener who is eager to hear the speaker’s story. Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the first prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 2–3 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during the interview, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cuál fue la experience más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce a story that includes lots of narrative and descriptive detail?
  • Is the context explained well, such that it would be comprehensible to listeners not familiar with the place, event, or people involved in the story?
  • Is the speaker able to produce additional information in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is (all or most of) the response comprehensible?
  • Is the speaker able to link sentences together to form more complex expressions?
  • Is the speaker able to keep his/her discourse in the past?
  • Does the speaker control the preterite and imperfect?
  • Does the speaker have the vocabulary needed to convey the details of the narrative?
  • Does the speaker tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end?
  • Does the speaker organize the story logically and coherently?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Intermediate High. Provides information about the event, but does not keep discourse in the past consistently.
  • Advanced Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, sometimes with ease and fluency. Sometimes produces a coherent story that focuses on the events and enriches them with descriptive details; sometimes may not produce a long or detailed story. Sometimes more emphasis on events and less on descriptive detail. Keeps discourse in the past consistently, but may not deploy preterite and imperfect appropriately.
  • Advanced High. Goes beyond the criteria for the task by, for example, introducing dialogue, imitating the characters in the story, or discussing the social ramifications of the event.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they help the speaker expand on the events or descriptive detail of the story (e.g., ¿Tenías mucho miedo? [yes/no question] versus Cuéntame lo que pasó. [open-ended follow-up question])
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Laura
  • Topic: The Past
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Jessica
  • Topic: The Past

Module 2.5 Intermediate High

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Module 2.5 Intermediate High

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.5

ACTFL level:  Intermediate High

Topic: Apartment Living

Interview Prompt: ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en casa en lugar de vivir en una residencia o en un apartamento?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense most of the time
  • Explain and describe in detail sometimes but not consistently
  • Produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences most of the time
  • Comprehensible to people who may not have experience with language learners

About the Intermediate High Speaker: A hallmark of the Intermediate High level is inconsistency and struggle. Speakers at this level are on the border between Intermediate Low/Mid and Advanced Low/Mid. When asked questions that elicit functions of the Intermediate Low/Mid level, they respond confidently, fluently, and accurately. But when they are asked questions that elicit functions at the Advanced Low/Mid level, such as explain and describe in detail, they struggle to integrate the vocabulary, grammar, and structural elements smoothly.

To read the full description of the Intermediate High level, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Intermediate High speakers. The topic is apartment living. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how Elizabeth and John respond to this prompt: ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en casa en lugar de vivir en una residencia o en un apartamento? Their language samples are good examples of performance at the upper range of the Intermediate level. The intended level of the prompt is Advanced Low/Mid, but depending on how the prompt is formulated, the speaker will receive more or less guidance on how to organize his/her response. The formulation here (¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en casa en lugar de vivir en una residencia o en un apartamento?) conveys directly to the speaker how to organize the comparison between living at home and living in a university residence hall or an apartment off campus.

This prompt asks for a comparison that focuses specifically on advantages and disadvantages of the respective options. Speakers who do not organize their response into categories of advantages and disadvantages will most likely list (in sentences) points of comparison in random order, which results in a performance at Intermediate High (or lower), rather than Advanced Low/Mid. This is the case with the responses by Elizabeth and John. To fulfill the criteria of the Advanced Low/Mid level that are relevant to this task—detailed description; produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences—you will need to organize your response into a logical presentation of advantages and disadvantages.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question at an Intermediate High level. You should start with a general comment, such as Vivo en un apartamento y me gusta mucho, pero hay tantas ventajas como desventajas en comparación con vivir en casa to set the stage for what you are going to say. This opening comment serves the same function as the topic sentence of a paragraph in writing.  Then think of the advantages of living in an apartment: freedom from your parents’ rules, the opportunity to learn the skills of independent living, the benefits of living close to campus, and so forth. You should also think of the disadvantages: having to shop and cook for yourself, the time needed for household chores, the financial burden of rent and utilities, and so forth. To demonstrate proficiency at the Intermediate High level, list advantages and disadvantages and explain in some detail. Hay desventajas, pero para mí las ventajas son más importantes. Your interview should show an attempt to create a coherent, detailed exposition of the pros and cons of the two living options.

Interviewer perspective. First, listen again to the speech segments by Elizabeth and John. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you listen, write down the follow-up questions the interviewer asks and take note of how the speaker responds. You will see that the most successful questions (i.e., those that prompt the speaker to produce more language) are open-ended. They take the form of questions (e.g., ¿Por qué?) or requests (e.g., Dime más sobre…). The least successful questions are those that elicit brief responses from the speaker. Also note that the interviewer frames the same question to Elizabeth and John slightly differently. To Elizabeth, she asks outright for advantages and disadvantages. To John, she asks which scenario he thinks is better.  Consider how these subtle differences may affect speaker performance. Remember: the interviewer’s goal is to elicit speech at an Advanced Low/Mid level and to push the speaker to talk at length about the topic; it is the speaker’s job to organize his/her responses into a coherent presentation of ideas.

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce detailed explanation; that is, lots of information on the advantages and disadvantages that the speaker has chosen to talk about. As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of a curious but uninformed conversation partner, someone who knows very little about the two living options. This allows you to ask the speaker to explain, clarify, and describe in detail. Most of your questions will be general: ¿Qué más?; Dime más; No tengo mucha información sobre este tema, ¿me puedes explicar más?; ¿Hay más desventajas? Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 1–2 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during the interview, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en casa en lugar de vivir en una residencia o en un apartamento?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce an explanation of the advantages and disadvantages that would be comprehensible to someone who is unfamiliar with the living options for students at your university?
  • Is the response substantial (lots of information)?
  • Does the response present a coherent picture of the pros and cons?
  • Is the speaker able to produce additional information in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to link sentences together to form complex expressions? Are the basics of the grammar (verb endings, comparison expressions, agreement, etc.) correct almost all of the time?
  • Does the speaker control the vocabulary needed to talk about the pros and cons?
  • Does the speaker organize the response logically and coherently?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Intermediate High: Gives information about the two option, but the element of comparison is present only minimally.  
  • Intermediate High: Provides substantial information about the advantages and disadvantages of one living option, or a comparison between two options, but not in a fully coherent and organized fashion.
  • Advanced Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, and does so with ease and fluency most of the time. May not produce a lot of language at times. Produces or attempts to produce a coherent description that focuses on the advantages and disadvantages.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they serve to open up a new topic (e.g., ¿Es caro vivir en un apartamento? [yes/no question] ¿De qué manera es una desventaja? [open-ended follow-up question]
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Elizabeth
  • Topic: Apartment
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: John
  • Topic: Apartment

Module 2.4 Intermediate High

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Module 2.4 Intermediate High

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.4

ACTFL level:  Intermediate High

Topic: Comparison

Prompt: ¿Cómo se compara tu ciudad con Austin?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense most of the time
  • Explain and describe in detail sometimes but not consistently
  • Produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences most of the time
  • Comprehensible to people who may not have experience with language learners

About the Intermediate High Speaker: A hallmark of the Intermediate High level is inconsistency and struggle. Speakers at this level are on the border between Intermediate Low/Mid and Advanced Low/Mid. When asked questions that elicit functions of the Intermediate Low/Mid level, they respond confidently, fluently, and accurately. But when they are asked questions that elicit functions at the Advanced Low/Mid level, such as explain and describe in detail, they struggle to integrate the vocabulary, grammar, and structural elements smoothly.

To read the full description of the Intermediate High level, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Intermediate High speakers. The topic is making comparisons. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Start by listening to how Elizabeth and John respond to the prompt: ¿Cómo se compara tu ciudad con Austin? Their language samples are good examples of performance at the upper range of the Intermediate level. The intended level of the prompt is Advanced, but the prompt does not clearly convey the need to organize the comparison between the two cities. Speakers who do not organize their response into categories of similarities and differences will most likely list (in sentences) points of comparison in random order, which results in a performance at Intermediate High (or lower). This is the case with the responses by Elizabeth and John. To fulfill the criteria of the Advanced level that are relevant to this task—detailed description; produce coherent discourse across groups of sentences—you will need to organize your comparison of the two cities.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question to speak at the Intermediate High level. You should start with a general comment, such as Hay muchas diferencias entre Iowa City y Austin to set the stage for what you are going to say. Then think of the ways in which the two cities are different: size, location (and effect of location on business or recreational activities), impact of the university on the city, the music culture (in Austin), and so forth. To demonstrate proficiency at the Intermediate High level, you can list the differences in a series of sentences and provide some details. You can end with a concluding statement, such as Hay otras diferencias, pero para mí estas son las más evidentes. Your interview should show an attempt to create a coherent, detailed description, but you needn’t worry about developing any particularly sophisticated argument or thesis.

Interviewer perspective. First, listen again to the speech segments by Elizabeth and John. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you listen, write down the follow-up questions the interviewer asks and take note of how the speaker responds. You will see that the most successful questions (i.e., those that prompt the speaker to produce more language) are open-ended. They take the form of questions (e.g., ¿Por qué?) or requests (e.g., Dime más sobre…). The least successful questions are those that elicit brief responses from the speaker. The interviewer’s goal in eliciting speech beyond the Intermediate High level is to push the speaker to talk at length about the topic; it is the speaker’s job to organize his/her responses into a coherent description.

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce detailed descriptions on the points of comparison that the speaker has chosen to talk about. As the interviewer, you should adopt the persona of a curious but uninformed conversation partner, someone who knows very little about the two cities. This allows you to ask the speaker to explain, clarify, and describe in detail. Most of your questions will be general: ¿Qué más?; Dime más; No lo conozco, ¿me puedes explicar más?; ¿Y en tu ciudad? Keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 1–2 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during the interview, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, working together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cómo se compara tu ciudad con Austin?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce comparisons that would be comprehensible to someone who is unfamiliar with the two cities?
  • Is the response substantial (lots of information)?
  • Does the response present a coherent picture of the differences between the two cities?
  • Is the speaker able to produce additional information in response to the follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to link sentences together to form more complex expressions?
  • Are the basics of the grammar (verb endings, comparison expressions, agreement, etc.) correct almost all of the time?
  • Does the speaker control the vocabulary needed to talk about the two cities?
  • Does the speaker organize the description logically and coherently?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Intermediate High: Gives information about the two cities, but the element of comparison is present only minimally.  
  • Intermediate High: Provides substantial information about the two cities and makes comparisons, but not in a fully coherent and organized fashion.
  • Advanced Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, and does so with ease and fluency most of the time. May not produce a lot of language at times. Produces or attempts to produce a coherent description that focuses on similarities and/or differences between the two cities.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they serve to open up a new topic (e.g., ¿Son populares los deportes acuáticos? [yes/no question] ¿Qué más se hace en tu ciudad para divertirse? [open-ended follow-up question]
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Elizabeth
  • Topic: Comparison
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: John
  • Topic: Comparison

Module 2.3 Intermediate Low/Mid

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Module 2.3 Intermediate Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.3

ACTFL level: Intermediate Low/Mid

Topic: Academic Major

Prompt: ¿Cuál es tu especialidad aquí en la universidad? ¿Por qué te interesa?

Features of speaker performance:

  • Maintain simple conversation
  • Express own meaning
  • Produce complete sentences in present
  • Control basic vocabulary related to familiar topics; e.g., home, family, school
  • Comprehensible to people who have experience with language learners 

About the Intermediate Low/Mid Speaker: Speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level typically combine learned elements of the language in novel ways (e.g., beyond the language samples presented in their textbooks) to express their intended message. They tend to respond briefly in single sentences or in a series of sentences. When they produce several sentences in a single response, the sentences may have the same structure (e.g., mi hermano es cómico, mi hermana es seria, mi madre es…). Speakers at these levels can express themselves best when talking about simple, personally relevant and familiar topics, such as family, home, school, and friends.

To read full descriptions of the Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Intermediate Low/Mid speakers. The topic is academic majors. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how Hannah and Emily respond to this prompt: ¿Cuál es tu especialidad aquí en la universidad? ¿Por qué te interesa? Their language samples are good examples of performance at the Intermediate Low/Mid level on the ACTFL scale. They produce complete sentences, conjugate their verbs, and control the vocabulary to give basic information about their respective majors at the university.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question. What aspects of your major could you mention to demonstrate your ability to fulfill the criteria of the Intermediate Low/Mid level? Start by thinking about how to express your course of study. The names of some majors may not be easy to express in Spanish (e.g., Plan II; Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering), or you may want to explain that you are majoring in Chemistry but you are also pre-med. Then plan how you will respond to the second part of the prompt—why this major interests you—by thinking about how to express your professional plans and goals. If you have not yet decided on a major, you will want to plan how to say what your probable major is and why you are interested in it. Your goal is to give as much information as you can and, if you are able, to organize the information into categories. Although speakers at a higher level of proficiency are able to respond to this question in a more sophisticated way (e.g., explaining how you came to be interested in your major), you should focus on conveying information about your studies in as fully as you can at the intended level.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by Hannah and Emily. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you listen, write down the follow-up questions the interviewer asks and take note of how the speaker responds. You will see that the most successful questions (i.e., those that prompt the speaker to produce more language) are open-ended. They take the form of questions (e.g., ¿Por qué te interesa…?) or requests (e.g., Cuéntame más sobre…).

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce language in the present tense to give lots of information about his or her major and related studies. Also keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 1–2 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during the interview, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. Working together, start by transcribing the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cuál es tu especialidad aquí en la universidad? ¿Por qué te interesa?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce information about his/her major that is comprehensible?
  • Is the response substantial (lots of information)?
  • Does the speaker produce additional information in response to follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to produce complete sentences, rather than words and short phrases?
  • Are the verbs forms (person/number endings) correct all/most of the time?
  • Does the speaker control the vocabulary needed to talk about his/her studies and academic interests?
  • Is the speaker reactive (brief responses), or does he/she respond to the prompt by offering information in series of sentences?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Intermediate Low: Cannot sustain simple conversation; not always able to produce complete sentences in response to interviewer questions.
  • Intermediate Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, sometimes with ease and fluency and sometimes producing a lot of language. Produces information in utterances ranging from 1-2 sentences to several sentences long.
  • Above Intermediate Mid: Goes beyond the criteria for the task by, for example, telling an anecdote (narration in past time) or talking about the demographic changes in the town over time.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they serve to open up a new topic (e.g., ¿Quieres estudiar medicina en el futuro? [yes/no question] ¿Por qué quieres ser medico/a? [open-ended follow-up question]
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Hannah
  • Topic: Academic Major
Download Video (mp4)

  • Name: Emily
  • Topic: Academic Major

Module 2.2 Intermediate Low/Mid

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Module 2.2 Intermediate Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.2

ACTFL level: Intermediate Low/Mid

Topic: Family

Prompt: Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.

Features of speaker performance:

  • Maintain simple conversation
  • Express own meaning
  • Produce complete sentences in present
  • Control basic vocabulary related to familiar topics; e.g., home, family, school
  • Comprehensible to people who have experience with language learners 

About the Intermediate Low/Mid Speaker: Speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level typically combine learned elements of the language in novel ways (e.g., beyond the language samples presented in their textbooks) to express their intended message. They tend to respond briefly in single sentences or in a series of sentences. When they produce several sentences in a single response, the sentences may have the same structure (e.g., mi hermano es cómico, mi hermana es seria, mi madre es…). Speakers at these levels can express themselves best when talking about simple, personally relevant and familiar topics, such as family, home, school, and friends.

To read full descriptions of the Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Intermediate Low/Mid speakers. The topic is family. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how Kim and Jenny respond to the prompt: Cuéntame un poco de tu familia. Their language samples are good examples of performance at the Intermediate Low/Mid level on the ACTFL scale. They produce complete sentences, conjugate their verbs, and control the vocabulary to give basic information about their respective families.

Now brainstorm how you might answer this question. What aspects of your family could you mention to demonstrate your ability to fulfill the criteria of the Intermediate level? Think about such things as the number of people in your family, their names and ages, their occupations, their interests and personalities, and where they live. If you have a small family and there is not much to talk about, you may also include information about your grandparents, cousins, or other family members. Your goal is to give as much information as you can and, if you are able, to organize the information into categories. Although speakers at a higher level of proficiency are able to respond to this question in a more sophisticated way (e.g., recounting an anecdote to illustrate a sibling’s personality), this is not a good strategy. Instead, you should respond as fully as you can at the intended level.

Interviewer perspective: First, listen again to the speech segments by Kim and Jenny. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you listen, write down the follow-up questions the interviewer asks and take note of how the speaker responds. You will see that the most successful questions (i.e., those that prompt the speaker to produce more language) are open-ended. They take the form of questions (e.g., ¿Cómo es…?) or requests (e.g., Cuéntame más sobre…).

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce language in the present tense to give lots of information about his or her family. Also keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 1–2 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during this phase, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following.  

  • Does the speaker produce information about his/her family that is mostly comprehensible?
  • Is the response substantial?
  • Does the speaker produce additional information in response to follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to produce complete sentences, rather than words and short phrases?
  • Are the verbs forms (person/number endings) correct all/most of the time? Does the speaker control the vocabulary needed to talk about family members and their activities?
  • Is the speaker reactive (brief responses), or does he/she respond to the prompt by offering information in series of sentences?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the speech sample:

  • Below Intermediate Low: Cannot sustain simple conversation; not always able to produce complete sentences in response to interviewer questions.
  • Intermediate Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, sometimes with ease and fluency and sometimes producing a lot of language. Produces information in utterances ranging from 1-2 sentences to several sentences long.
  • Above Intermediate Mid: Goes beyond the criteria for the task by, for example, telling an anecdote (narration in past time) or talking about the demographic changes in the town over time.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they serve to open up a new topic (e.g., Tu hermano, ¿es estudiante también? [yes/no question] Cuéntame más de lo que estudia. [open-ended follow-up question]
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

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  • Name: Kim
  • Topic: Family
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  • Name: Jenny
  • Topic: Family

Module 2.1 Intermediate Low/Mid

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Module 2.1 Intermediate Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2  Module 2.1

ACTFL Level: Intermediate Low/Mid

Topic: Hometown

Interview Prompt: ¿Cómo es tu ciudad?

Features of Speaker Performance:

  • Maintain simple conversation
  • Express own meaning
  • Produce complete sentences in present tense
  • Control basic vocabulary related to familiar topics (e.g., home, family, school)
  • Comprehensible to people who have experience with language learners 

About the Intermediate Low/Mid Speaker: Speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level typically combine learned elements of the language in novel ways (e.g., beyond the language samples presented in their textbooks) to express their intended message. They tend to respond briefly in single sentences or in a series of sentences. When they produce several sentences in a single response, the sentences may have the same structure (e.g., mi hermano es cómico, mi hermana es seria, mi madre es…). Speakers at these levels can express themselves best when talking about simple, personally relevant and familiar topics, such as family, home, school, and friends.

To read full descriptions of the Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid levels, see the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking. You can also view video clips of interviews in English at this level.

1. Prepare Interview Questions

Here are some sample video interviews of Intermediate Low/Mid speakers. The topic is hometowns. As you watch these videos, consider the perspectives of the speaker and interviewer by following the guide provided for you below.

Speaker perspective: Listen to how Hannah and Emily respond to the prompt: ¿Cómo es tu ciudad? Their language samples are good examples of performance at the Intermediate Low/Mid level on the ACTFL scale. They produce complete sentences, conjugate their verbs, and control the vocabulary to give basic information about their hometowns.

Now brainstorm how you might respond to the prompt. What aspects of your hometown could you mention to demonstrate your ability to fulfill the criteria of the Intermediate Low/Mid level? Think about such things as location, number of inhabitants, principal businesses or industries, and features of interest. You might also mention what people do for recreation there. Your goal is to give as much information as you can and, if you are able, to organize the information into categories. Although speakers at a higher level of proficiency are able to respond to this question in a more sophisticated way (e.g., recounting historical events that took place in the town; discussing social problems there), you should respond as fully as you can at the intended level.

Interviewer perspective: Listen again to the speech segments by Hannah and Emily. This time, focus on the questions the interviewer asks. As you listen, write down the follow-up questions the interviewer asks and take note of how the speaker responds. You will see that the most successful questions (i.e., those that prompt the speaker to produce more language) are open-ended. They take the form of questions (e.g., ¿Cómo es…?) or requests (e.g., Cuéntame más sobre…).

Now work together to brainstorm questions that you might ask to follow up on the first prompt. Remember that your purpose is to encourage the speaker to produce language in the present tense to give lots of information about his or her hometown. Also keep in mind that you will have to think quickly to ask questions that follow up on the specific content of what the speaker has just said. This means that although you can—and you should—prepare follow-up questions, you cannot just read the questions from your list. Instead, you will have to modify your questions and/or prepare new ones on the spot so that the resulting speech segment sounds like a coherent conversation.

2. Produce the Interview

Working in pairs or small groups, the interviewer asks the prompt and the follow-up questions, and the speaker responds. Record your speech segment on video, if possible; if not, audio is acceptable. (It is easier to transcribe from video.) Aim for a segment that is 1–2 minutes in length. Put away your notes from the preparation phase; you should not use any notes during the interview, so that your interaction will be natural and spontaneous.

After producing the interview, work together to transcribe the speech segment. To see the relationship between interviewer questions and speaker responses, it is helpful to lay out your text as follows:

Interviewer

Speaker

¿Cómo es tu ciudad?

Response

Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)

Response

Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)

Response

etc.

etc.


3. Evaluate the Speaker

Looking only at the speaker’s performance, and keeping in mind the linguistic features associated with this level, discuss the following:

  • Does the speaker produce information about his/her hometown that is comprehensible?
  • Is the response substantial (lots of information)?
  • Does the speaker produce additional information in response to follow-up questions?
  • Is the speaker able to produce complete sentences, rather than words and short phrases?
  • Are the verbs forms (person/number endings) correct all/most of the time?
  • Does the speaker control the vocabulary needed to talk about his/her hometown?
  • Is the speaker reactive (brief responses), or does he/she respond to the prompt by offering information in series of sentences?

What proficiency level do you give to the response? Select among the following and justify your choice with evidence from the sample interviews:

  • Below Intermediate Low: Cannot sustain simple conversation; not always able to produce complete sentences in response to interviewer questions.
  • Intermediate Low/Mid: Fulfills the criteria for the task, sometimes with ease and fluency and sometimes producing a lot of language. Produces information in utterances ranging from 1-2 sentences to several sentences long.
  • Above Intermediate Mid: Goes beyond the criteria for the task by, for example, telling an anecdote (narration in past time) or talking about the demographic changes in the town over time.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Now consider the interviewer’s performance. Looking at the questions the interviewer asked, discuss the following questions:

  • Does the interviewer ask open-ended follow-up questions?
  • If the interviewer asks closed-ended questions, do they serve to open up a new topic (e.g., ¿Hay restaurantes mexicanos en tu pueblo? [yes/no question] Háblame de tu restaurante favorito. [open-ended follow-up question]
  • Do the follow-up questions fit logically with the content of what the speaker has just said?
  • How does the interviewer bring the speech segment to a close? Is it accomplished smoothly? If not, what suggestions do you have for how the interviewer might have done so?
  • Do the follow-up questions encourage the speaker to produce more language? If not, what problems do you see?
  • How does the interviewer allow the speakers to demonstrate the extent of their proficiency?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

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  • Name: Hannah
  • Topic: Hometown
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  • Name: Emily
  • Topic: Hometown

Part 2 Overview

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_Part 2 Overview

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 2

Overview

Part 2 of Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels is designed to help Spanish language teachers:

1. Reflect on the construct of language proficiency as it is understood and assessed by the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking and the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).

2. Develop and reflect on their own skills for conducting an interview in order to determine Spanish learners’ proficiency levels.

This training uses a modified version of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The ACTFL levels characterize speakers in terms of the linguistic features they are able to perform at each level.

Part 2 requires you to work in pairs or small groups and involves engagement in and reflection upon interviews amongst yourselves, in which you act both as interviewer and as speaker. You will need to record these interviews; we suggest video recordings, but audio recordings are also an option.

In the interviews, you will be asked to simulate language at lower proficiency levels in order to consider the linguistic resources and limitations of learners at each level. Also, you may need to adjust the interview topic according to your particular educational setting. For example, the interview topic “College Majors” could change to “Favorite Subject” for high school settings. In making these changes, be careful not to change the linguistic features that speakers will have to demonstrate in their responses.  

Organization of Modules

Part 2 contains nine modules and covers ACTFL Levels Intermediate Low to Superior.   Each module focuses on one ACTFL proficiency level and a number of linguistic features associated with that level.

Each module includes two video sample interviews with Spanish learners and guides you in reflecting on the videos as preparation for creating your own oral interview with a partner or small group. One person acts as the interviewer and another person as the speaker. Each module guides you through four phases:

1. Prepare Interview Questions

First, you and your partner or small group will watch the sample interviews and consider the speaker’s performance in demonstrating proficiency as well as the interviewer’s performance in eliciting language that demonstrates proficiency. Your goal will be to consider how interview questions can impact the speaker’s language features/proficiency, and to prepare questions for your own interview.

2. Produce the Interview

You and your partner/group will take turns assuming the roles of interviewer and speaker

3. Evaluate the Speaker

Guiding questions will prompt you and your partner or group to discuss the speaker’s performance based on the proficiency level of the module.

4. Analyze the Interviewer

Guiding questions will prompt you and your partner or group to focus on how the interviewer’s questions may have affected the speaker’s performance.  

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu