Category Archives: Spanish

Module 1.7 Advanced Low/ Mid

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Module 1.7 Advanced Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1 Module 1.7

ACTFL Level: Advanced Low/Mid

Key Linguistic Feature: Express (and sometimes support) opinions on abstract issues

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at this level are relatively fluent and confident, able to talk about a wide range of topics, both personal and impersonal. At the Intermediate level, speakers talk about themselves and about topics in their immediate experience, such as family, school, work, and leisure activities. At the Advanced Low/Mid level, they move beyond these familiar topics to narrate, describe, and explain events in the world around them. For example, they can talk about an event that took place on campus, explaining how it started, what happened, and what is likely to happen in the future.

Advanced Low/Mid speakers have limited ability to talk about abstract and controversial topics that may not affect them directly, such as the social implications of instituting year-round schooling for K–12 students. They tend, however, to view such topics in terms of their own experience. For example, if asked their opinion about a (hypothetical) proposal to raise tuition at public universities in Texas, they almost certainly will talk about the impact on them personally.

Talking about abstract, controversial topics entails stating an opinion, explaining the opinion, and defending the opinion. Strong speakers at the Advanced Mid level on the ACTFL scale typically approach opinion tasks in this way. If they use their own experience as support for their opinion, they return to the abstract topic at the end of their response. Weaker speakers at the Advanced Low level on the ACTFL scale may state their opinion and then tell a story about their personal experience with the topic.

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.

Interview Questions

To elicit an opinion on an abstract topic, the interviewer first presents the topic and then asks for the learner’s opinion. Sometimes the topic is so well known that it needs no introduction, as with sports. All Advanced Low/Mid-level speakers are able to meet the demands of this task. But to elicit a supported opinion, the interviewer asks additional types of questions. The follow-up question pushes learners to expand on and justify their opinions.

Introducing a different perspective (e.g., Pero otras personas dicen que…) or pointing out a lapse in logic by the learner (e.g., Pero vas a los partidos…to a student who has criticized the huge allocation of resources to the university football program) forces the learners to support their opinions. For strong speakers, interviewers may ask a hypothetical question so that the speaker goes farther into the abstract topic and imagines the impact of a course of action that does not exist.

Appropriate question types for speakers at the Advanced Low/Mid level include the following:

  • Introduce the controversial topic (if needed) and request the opinion: ¿Qué opinas de la importancia que se le da a los deportes en esta universidad?
  • Follow-up question to elicit expansion of the opinion: ¿Es justificado gastar tanto dinero?
  • Offer an opposing position: Pero dices que vas a todos los partidos.
  • Hypothetical question: Si tuvieras doscientos mil dólares para gastar en algo en la universidad, ¿qué harías con esta plata?

What to Expect

Advanced Low/Mid-level speakers can state opinions and expand on their opinions. Strong speakers (who would be rated higher than Advanced Mid on the ACTFL scale) can support their opinions when confronted with an opposing point of view. Advanced Low/Mid speakers tend to offer articulate opinion statements, but do not support their opinions as fluently as their original statements. As you watch the two video clips, focus on both how speakers express their opinions and on whether the interviewers ask questions that push the speakers to support their opinions.

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. In the first interview, Abigail gives her opinion about the money spent on sports at her university. You will see that she also supports her opinion.

In the first viewing of Abigail’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Abigail (topic - sports)

In the second viewing, focus on Abigail’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. Qué opinas de la importancia a que se le da a los deportes aquí en la universidad? ¿Tú crees que es necesario mantener un equipo de fútbol, béisbol, básquetbol aquí? porque gastamos mucho dinero.

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

2. Entonces no vale la pena tanto tener…

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

3. Pero tú dices que vas siempre a los partidos.

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

4. Si tú tuvieras doscientos mil dólares para gastar en algo en la universidad, ¿qué harías con esta plata?

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

In the next interview, Amy gives her opinion about the money spent on sports at her university. You will see that she also supports her opinion. In the first viewing, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Amy (topic - sports)

In the second viewing, focus on Amy’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

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

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

2. ¿Crees que es justificado gastar tanto dinero en los equipos?

__ Request for opinion
__ Follow-up
__ Opposing perspective
__ Hypothetical

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at the Advanced Low/Mid level are quite fluent. They are able to express their opinions and to expand on those opinions when asked to do or when presented with an opposing viewpoint. They do, however, tend to discuss abstract issues in terms of their own experience, which may lead them to make the abstract issue concrete. Strong speakers will use these personal references as illustrative examples to support their opinions on the issue. Weaker speakers tend to make the personal anecdotes the centerpiece of their responses. The role of the interviewer in supported opinion tasks is to frame the issue clearly and then to ask questions in order to determine the extent to which the speaker is able to support their stance on the topic abstractly and logically.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Advanced Low/Mid level provided at the beginning of this module and to the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. Listen again to Abigail’s response. What is her opinion on the topic? What does she say to support her opinion? Does she repeat her opinion, or does she build on it? Refer to Abigail’s speech sample in your answer.
  2. How does Abigail respond to the interviewer’s hypothetical question of how she would spend a large amount of money on behalf of the university? Does she respond in the same hypothetical (conditional) mode? What does Abigail’s approach tell you about her proficiency level?
  3. Listen again to Amy’s response. What is her opinion on the topic? What does she say to support her opinion? Does she repeat her opinion, or does she build on it? Refer to Amy’s speech sample in your answer.
  4. The two interviewers in these video clips do not open the topic and pose their first request for an opinion in the same way. How do their approaches differ? How do the different formulations affect the responses of the two learners?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Video(s) Referenced in this Module

Download Video (mp4)

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

  • Name: Amy
  • Topic: Sports

Module 1.6 Advanced Low/ Mid

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Module 1.6 Advanced Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1 Module 1.6

ACTFL Level: Advanced Low/Mid

Key Linguistic Feature: Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at this level are relatively fluent and able to participate in conversations with groups of people. They need not rely on one-on-one conversations with a patient interlocutor (i.e. a conversational partner) to make themselves understood. They speak with enough fluency and confidence to take the floor for extended turns, as when telling a story. They are able to meet the demands of the principal performance feature of the Advanced Low/Mid level, narration and description in past tense; that is, telling stories about past events.

Telling a story is a challenging task for learners of Spanish. It involves knowing and being able to produce the vocabulary needed to convey the details about the events and the setting. It also involves controlling the past tense: the verb endings (morphology) as well as when to use the preterite and when to use the imperfect (syntax). In addition to these linguistic elements, speakers must appeal to their listeners by telling an engaging story—combining narrative and descriptive elements appropriately, building suspense, and making sure the point of the story is clear. Advanced-level speakers can manage all this at once.

Another function of the Advanced Low/Mid level is the ability to use communicative strategies to solve linguistic (usually vocabulary-related) problems. When doing a complex task like telling a story, it is common for speakers to experience lexical gaps—they do not know all of the words they need. Advanced Low/Mid-level speakers are able to paraphrase and circumlocute to compensate for their lack of specific vocabulary. For example, they use a general word rather than a specific one, like animal grande instead of oso; they may explain the word, sometimes relying on a cultural reference, such as la comida favorita de Bugs Bunny for zanahoria; or they may start a sentence over to avoid the unknown word. Their well-developed communication strategies enable them to keep their discourse entirely in Spanish.

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.

Interview Questions

When a story is told in the context of a conversation, the speaker has the burden of keeping the listener’s attention, but the listener also has responsibilities; specifically, to insert comments and questions that signal attention to and understanding of the story, encouraging the speaker to continue. In a language proficiency interview, the questions should encourage topic development by asking for clarification and details. The interviewer may also offer comments to signal reactions of interest and emotional engagement.

Appropriate question types for speakers at the Advanced Low/Mid level include the following:

  • Topic opener: ¿Has viajado a otros países?
  • Request for a story: ¿Cuál fue la experiencia más interesante?
  • Follow-up question to elicit more details: ¿Y qué pasó después?
  • Questions or comments to express interest: ¿No tenías mucho miedo?

What to Expect

Advanced Low/Mid-level speakers can organize the facts and contextual details (setting, emotions, etc.), of their story, make the point of their story clear, and do all this while keeping their discourse in the past. Strong speakers at this level (Advanced Mid on the ACTFL scale) control the uses of preterite and imperfect (although there are occasional errors), whereas weak speakers at this level (Advanced Low on the ACTFL scale) tend to overuse the preterite in obligatory imperfect contexts.

Speakers with different language learning backgrounds—classroom learners, students who have lived or studied abroad for an extended period, heritage speakers, even native speakers—will have different linguistic profiles. The speakers in the video clips you will watch have different linguistic backgrounds. As you listen to them, focus on the features of their discourse that contribute to the effectiveness of their stories, specifically relating to keeping their interlocutors’ attention and using the past tense appropriately.

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. In this video Jessica talks about her trip to another country (Costa Rica). The speech segment covers two topics—the projects she participated in there and a significant event.

In the first viewing, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Jessica (topic - other countries)

In the second viewing, focus on Jessica’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. Tú dices que has viajado a otros países hispanoamericanos.

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

2. ¿Cómo te fue el viaje a Costa Rica?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. ¿Te mandaron a Costa Rica para excavar…?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

4. ¿Cuál fue la experiencia más interesante?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

5. ¿Pero había cocodrilos por todas partes?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

6. Dios mío, ¿no tenías miedo después?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

In the next video, Laura (a Spaniard) talks about her experiences working for a summer in the United States when she was a college student. The speech segment covers two topics—the educational context that prompted her to go to the United States and what her job there was like, and a significant aspect of the experience.

In the first viewing of Laura’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about Question Type.

Interview: Laura (topic - other countries)

In the second viewing, focus on Laura’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Has estado aquí antes, no, en Estados Unidos?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

2. ¿Qué estabas haciendo en esta época?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. ¿Había una experiencia en particular?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

4. ¿Hablabas en inglés?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of the Advanced Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at the Advanced Low/Mid level, as you saw in the case of Jessica and Laura, are largely confident and fluent. When they run into difficulty in self-expression, they find alternate ways of expressing their meaning. They are comprehensible to interlocutors who may not be familiar with the speech of language learners, which means that they are able to participate in group conversations and talk about a wide range of topics.

In their stories they weave narrative and descriptive elements together, and they communicate to the listener why they have chosen to recount that particular event. The role of the interviewer is to ask leading questions to encourage topic development and inclusion of descriptive detail.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Advanced Low/Mid level provided at the beginning of this module and to the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. Jessica tells two stories in her video clip about her time in Costa Rica. In the first story, she gives some background information. What was her life in the United States like at the time she took this trip? Where did she live and what did she do in Costa Rica? What is the point of this part of Jessica’s story? (What impact did it have on her? What life lessons did she learn?) How does Jessica integrate these contextual details into the point of her story?
  2. Jessica’s second story is about swimming in (possibly) alligator-infested waters in Costa Rica. Recount the plot in simple sentences. Then examine Jessica’s story for descriptive details and evaluation (the point of the story). Does Jessica provide sufficient descriptive detail to create an effective story? Does she state the point of the story clearly?
  3. Laura is a highly educated native speaker, so her speaking proficiency in Spanish exceeds the Advanced Low/Mid level. Does this mean that her performance on the topic Other Countries is by definition higher than the Advanced Low/Mid level? Listen to her response again to help you answer this question.
  4. The performance features of the Advanced Low/Mid level include narration, description, explanation, comparison, and giving instruction. How many of these features are present in Laura’s speech sample? Refer to particular parts of her response as evidence to support your answer.  
  5. How might the interviewer have elicited Advanced High language features in these interviews?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

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

  • Name: Laura
  • Topic: Other Countries

Module 1.5 Intermediate High

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Module 1.5 Intermediate High

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1  Module 1.5

ACTFL Level: Intermediate High

Key Feature: Explain and describe in detail most of the time

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Intermediate High Level

Speakers at this level waver between the Intermediate Low/Mid and Advanced Low/Mid levels. Their proficiency may be hard to evaluate because they are able to speak at the Advanced Low/Mid level most of the time, but not consistently. A second important feature of the Advanced Low/Mid level is giving explanations. Explanations can take various forms. Giving instructions or going through the steps in a process is a type of explanation; speakers may also explain the pros and cons of a course of action or the causes and consequences of a situation.

Explanations at the Advanced Low/Mid level are detailed and, above all, they are well organized. Speakers at that level typically frame their responses before they start, indicating to the listener how they will organize their explanation. For example, a speaker might start an explanation by saying Hay tres aspectos importantes de X. Primero…; or the speaker might start by saying Hay ventajas y desventajas de vivir en casa cuando uno estudia en la universidad. Una ventaja es…

However, speakers at the Intermediate High level typically cannot organize their explanations in this manner. Some speakers jump into the explanation without announcing (or having) a plan; others frame their responses at the beginning but lose track of the plan as they are speaking.

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

Interview Questions

Speakers are rated at this level based on their responses to questions designed to elicit speech at the Advanced Low/Mid level. The interview questions encourage topic development by asking for clarification and details, types of questions that elicit the Advanced Low/Mid-level feature of explaining in detail—in this case eliciting a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of common living arrangements for college students. You may wish to examine speech samples at the Advanced Low/Mid levels to see speakers produce well-organized explanations of advantages and disadvantages and compare them to the Intermediate High speakers in this module. For example in Module 1.7, watch Advanced Low/Mid speakers Abigail or Amy talk about sports.  

Appropriate question types for speakers at the Intermediate High level include the following:

  • Topic opener: ¿En Austin tú vives en un apartamento?
  • Request for explanation: ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en una residencia versus en un apartamento?
  • Follow-up question to elicit more details: ¿Y hay otras ventajas?

What to Expect

Although Intermediate High speakers will be able to provide information about their preference for living arrangements, they may not frame their responses by first giving an overall preference statement and then explaining the reasons for their preference. Because this level, like all levels in the ACTFL proficiency scale, encompasses a range of abilities, you should expect to find stronger and weaker speakers who fulfill the criteria of the level. Weaker speakers give less information with more hesitation, whereas stronger speakers may be more fluent, providing more information and showing some evidence of understanding the need to organize the information.  

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. When you watch the first interview in which Claire talks about the advantages of living with her family rather than on campus or in an apartment with other students, you will notice that she expresses her preference, sometimes in a long stretch of speech and sometimes in one-sentence responses.

In the first viewing of Claire’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Claire (topic - apartment living)

In the second viewing, focus on Claire’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Tú vives en un aprtamento o en un dormi…?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

2. ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir con la familia versus en un dormitorio o en un apartamento con otros estudiantes?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

3. ¿Cuáles son las ventajas fuera de que tu tía paga todo?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

4. ¿Quién lava la ropa y todo eso?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

5. ¿Y tu tía prepara la comida más que nada?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

In the next video, Sarah talks about the advantages of living in an apartment rather than in a university dormitory. In the first viewing, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Sarah (topic - apartment living)

In the second viewing, focus on Sarah’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Tú vives en un apartamento aquí en Austin?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

2. ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en un apartamento en vez de vivir en un dormitorio?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

3. ¿Por qué?

__ Topic opener
__ Request for explanation
__ Follow-up

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of 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 features of the Intermediate Low/Mid level, they respond confidently, fluently, and accurately. But when asked questions that elicit the performance feature at the Advanced Low/Mid level, such as giving comparisons and other types of explanations, they struggle to organize their responses effectively. They give information, but do not organize the information to respond to the question in a full and well-structured way.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Intermediate High level in this module and the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. Claire mentions in her response to another speaking task that she is from Iran. Students of Spanish with different native languages may have different learning challenges and different linguistic profiles. Can you tell in this speech sample that Claire’s native language is not English? If so, how? Does it affect her performance in this speech sample or the rating given to her performance?
  2. Claire’s video clip contains many non-productive interviewer questions; that is, yes/no and directed information questions that elicit only brief responses. Listen again to this video clip. If you were the interviewer, what questions would you ask, especially in the second half of the interaction, to elicit longer stretches of speech?
  3. Sarah’s longest stretch of speech includes this very long complex sentence (pauses and hesitation markers deleted): Me gusta vivir en un apartamento más porque yo tengo mi propio cuarto y no me gusta compartir mi cuarto con otra persona y cuando uno se vive en los dormitorios tiene que tener una cama acá y otra  muy cerca y no me gusta ese aspecto porque usualmente uno no va a tener la misma vida que la otra persona. What conjunction does Sarah use to connect these sentences? Is this way of speaking typical for speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid or the Advanced Low/Mid level? Why does the function of explaining in detail require the ability to produce complex sentences?
  4. Why do you think that these speakers are rated Intermediate High? What are the weaknesses of their explanations that keep them out of the Advanced Low/Mid level?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

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

  • Name: Sarah
  • Topic: Apartment

Module 1.4 Intermediate High

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Module 1.4 Intermediate High

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1  Module 1.4

ACTFL Level: Intermediate High

Key Linguistic Feature: Tell stories about past events; keep discourse in past tense most of the time

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Intermediate High Level

Speakers at this level waver between the Intermediate Low/Mid and Advanced Low/Mid levels. Their proficiency may be hard to evaluate because they are able to speak at the Advanced Low/Mid level most of the time, but not consistently. The principal performance feature of the Advanced Low/Mid level is narration and description in past tense; that is, telling stories about past events.

Telling a story is a challenging task for learners of Spanish. It involves knowing and being able to produce the vocabulary needed to convey the details about the events and the setting. It also involves controlling the past tense: the verb endings (morphology) as well as when to use the preterite and when to use the imperfect (syntax). In addition to these linguistic elements, learners must appeal to their listeners by telling an engaging story—combining narrative and descriptive elements appropriately, building suspense, and making sure the point of the story is clear. Advanced Low/Mid-level speakers can manage all this at once, whereas Intermediate High speakers cannot. Some speakers give the facts in report form but provide no descriptive elements; others narrate and describe well but cannot keep their discourse in the past.

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.

Interview Questions

Speakers are rated at the Intermediate High level based on their responses to questions designed to elicit speech at the Advanced Low/Mid level. The interview questions encourage topic development by asking for clarification and details, and the types of questions elicit the principal performance feature of the Advanced Low/Mid level—to tell stories by narrating and describing in past tense. You may wish to examine speech samples at the Intermediate High to the Advanced Low/Mid levels together to see the difference between being able to tell a good story (Advanced Low/Mid level) and not be being able to control all of the elements at once (Intermediate High).

Appropriate question types for speakers at the Intermediate High level include the following:

  • Request for the story: ¿Cuál fue la experiencia más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?
  • Follow-up question to elicit more details: ¿Por qué? ¿Y qué aprendiste ese primer año?
  • Questions or comments to express interest: ¿Te chocó mucho?

What to Expect

All Intermediate High speakers will struggle with the storytelling task, because it pushes them beyond the speaking level they can consistently sustain. But because this level, like all levels in ACTFL proficiency scale, encompasses a range of abilities; you should expect to find stronger and weaker speakers who fulfill the criteria of the level. Weaker speakers tell shorter stories, often pausing to search for words; they focus on the main story line rather than narrative or descriptive details. Stronger speakers may be more fluent, focusing more on the story line than on linguistic accuracy. As you watch the two video clips for this level, focus on how the speakers juggle the demands of narrating and describing in past time.

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. When you watch the first video clip in which John talks about a significant childhood event, you will notice that he hesitates as he searches his memory for a good story.

In the first viewing, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about Question Type.

Interview: John (topic - the past)

In the second viewing, focus on John’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Cuál fue la experiencia más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

2. ¿Tú recuerdas?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. ¿Y no conocías a nadie?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

4. ¿Y fue muy chocante? ¿Lloraste mucho?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

As you watch the next video, you will discover that Elizabeth is a stronger speaker than John. She tells a longer story, provides more details, and speaks with greater fluency. You will explore these differences in the Analyze section.

In the first viewing of Elizabeth’s interview, focus on the interviewer questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Elizabeth (topic - the past)

In the second viewing, focus on Elizabeth’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Cuál fue la experiencia más chocante para ti cuando eras joven?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

2. ¿Te chocó mucho? ¿Todavía tienes la cicatriz?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. Y cuando tengas hijos, ¿qué vas a hacer de diferente?

__ Request for the story
__ Follow-up
__ Express interest

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of 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 telling a story about a past event, they struggle to integrate the vocabulary, grammar, and story elements smoothly.

Their inability to put all the pieces together to sustain their language while telling a story reveals itself in different ways, as you have seen in the two video clips at this level.

It may be helpful to view clips of speakers whose performance on this task is at the Advanced Low/Mid level, so you can see how speakers successfully weave the elements together. For example, in Module 1.6 you can watch Advanced Low/Mid speakers Jessica or Laura talk about past events.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Intermediate High level provided for you at the beginning of this module and to the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. A good story has narrative elements, descriptive elements, and evaluative elements. Evaluative elements direct the attention of listeners to the important parts of the story so they empathize with the teller and understand the point of the story. Does John’s story have all three of these elements? Explain.
  2. Does Elizabeth’s story have narrative, descriptive, and evaluative elements? Explain.
  3. Elizabeth makes it clear that she did not understand the interviewer’s first question. She appears to interpret chocante as an event related to an accident. Does the misunderstanding affect the proficiency level of this speech segment?
  4. Why do you think these speakers are rated Intermediate High? What are the weaknesses of their stories that keep them out of the Advanced Low/Mid level?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

Download Video (mp4)

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

  • Name: Elizabeth
  • Topic: The Past

Module 1.3 Intermediate Low/Mid

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Module 1.3 Intermediate Low-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1  Module 1.3

ACTFL Level: Intermediate Low/Mid

Key Linguistic Feature: Maintain simple conversation

1. Prepare to Observe

Introduction to the Intermediate Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at this level are independent communicators. They are consistently able to create their own meaning spontaneously in sentence-level discourse and can sustain discourse at that level over several turns. They can talk about familiar topics, such as family, interests, and academic subjects. They can talk about other people also, such as friends or family members. They have enough control of grammar to talk about events and routines in the present. The Intermediate Low/Mid designation in this resource is broad, encompassing both Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines.

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.

Interview Questions

The task of interviewers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level is to elicit the principal speaker feature: maintain a simple conversation. Open-ended questions and polite requests are the best question type for this purpose. A polite request such as Cuéntamente un poco de tu ciudad gives learners little guidance; the burden of what to say and how to say it falls on them. Appropriate question types for speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level include the following:

  • Open-ended questions: ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tus horas libres?
  • Polite requests: Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.

You will also find yes/no and directed information questions in video clips at this level. They serve as topic openers and topic continuers. Interviewers use yes/no questions at this level to which the answer is most often no, since it is natural to continue with additional information to set the record straight.

  • Topic openers: Te especializas en español, ¿verdad?
  • Topic continuers: ¿Tú eres el hijo único?

What to Expect

The Intermediate Low/Mid level encompasses a range of abilities, so you should expect to find stronger and weaker speakers who fulfill the criteria of the level. The range of abilities is captured in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (available on the ACTFL website), which allow raters to distinguish between Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid proficiency levels.

All speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level are able to sustain a simple conversation. They talk about familiar topics in the present tense, often producing several sentences in a row. Strong speakers at this level may organize their speech, whereas weaker speakers tend to produce a collection of sentences on the same topic, but without framing the topic. You will hear examples of this discourse organization in the video interviews for this level.

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. In the first viewing of Hannah’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Hannah (topic - academic major)

In the second viewing, focus on Hannah’s responses and write your notes in the third column. You may notice that Hannah is not a big talker.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Cuál es tu especialidad?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

2. ¿Por qué te interesa tanto el español?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. ¿No hay nada en particular que te guste?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

4. ¿Y el tema dentro de la literatura latinoamericana que te gusta más?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

As you listen to the next video, notice how Emily is a stronger speaker than Hannah. Although her video clip is only 10 seconds longer than Emily’s, she speaks with greater fluency and confidence. The speech samples of the two speakers differ in other ways as well, which you will explore in the analysis section afterward.

In the first viewing of Emily’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about the questions type.

Interview: Emily (topic - academic major)

In the second viewing, focus on Emily’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Cuál es tu especialidad?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

2. ¿Por qué te interesa tanto la publicidad?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. ¿Quieres trabajar en el área de publicidad más que español?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No or Directed         information as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of the Intermediate Low/Mid Level

The hallmark of the Intermediate Low/Mid level is to sustain a simple conversation across multiple turns. To do this, learners have to be able to provide information about themselves—their families, interests, academic plans, and so forth. Most of the interview questions are phrased as open-ended or polite requests; these question types and the follow-up questions are designed to elicit a speech sample of several sentences on each topic.

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines distinguish between strong and weak performances at this level with two different proficiency levels: Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid. Intermediate Low speakers may produce single-sentence responses; the interviewer must ask additional questions to elicit a speech sample long enough to rate. Intermediate Mid speakers are fluent, confident speakers at their level. They are not rated higher than Intermediate Mid because they do not meet the criteria of a higher level, but their performance on targeted linguistic features is often quite impressive.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Intermediate Low/Mid level provided at the beginning of this module and to the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. The interviewer talks to two learners about the same topic; they receive the same proficiency rating for this speech segment. Examine her questions to the two learners again. Does she ask the same questions? Do her questions serve the same functions? Why or why not?
  2. Hannah says very little in this speech sample. Do you agree on the rating of Intermediate Low/Mid that she received? Justify your response.
  3. Here is the longest sentence that Emily produces (pauses and hesitation markers deleted): Me encanta las ideas creativas y también la comunicación y quiero usarlos juntos y pienso que puedo hacer eso y puedo trabajar y disfrutarme mucho. What conjunction(s) does Emily use to connect these sentences? Is this way of speaking typical for speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level? What would you expect from speakers at a higher level?
  4. Watch the two video clips again, and then read the descriptions of the Intermediate Low and Intermediate Mid levels of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. Can you match up the descriptions to the speech samples from Hannah and Emily? Support your response connecting specific language from the level descriptions with parts of the two speech samples.
  5. What aspects of Emily and Hannah’s social presentation (personality, confidence level, etc.) might be connected to their language proficiency?  Do you agree that Emily is a stronger speaker than Hannah?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

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  • Name: Hannah
  • Topic: Academic Major
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  • Name: Emily
  • Topic: Academic Major

Module 1.2 Novice High

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Module 1.2 NoviceHigh

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1  Module 1.2

ACTFL Level: Novice High

Key Linguistic Feature: Sometimes but not consistently maintain simple conversation

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Novice High Speaker

Speakers at this level may perform linguistic functions that range from the Novice Low/Mid to Intermediate Low/Mid levels. Their proficiency may be hard to evaluate because they are able to create their own meaning spontaneously in sentence-level discourse (Intermediate Low/Mid) a good deal of the time but not consistently; however, sometimes they fail to meet the communicative demands of open-ended questions and fall back to relying on words and phrases (Novice Low/Mid). The best way to understand the features of proficiency at this level is to view it as “almost Intermediate Low.”

A very good Novice Mid speaker—one who controls a large repertoire of words, phrases, and even memorized (stock) sentences—is still a Novice Mid speaker. To be rated at a Novice High level, a speaker has to demonstrate substantial, albeit inconsistent, control of basic elements of Spanish grammar (e.g., verb conjugations, word order) to produce sentence-level discourse and maintain a simple conversation.

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

Interview Questions

Speakers are rated at this level based on their responses to questions designed to elicit speech at the Intermediate Low/Mid level. The interviewer’s questions are largely open-ended, because these are the best types of questions to elicit the principal linguistic feature at the Intermediate Low/Mid level—to create meaning in sentence-level discourse in order to maintain a simple conversation. If the speaker is unable to consistently perform at this level, it’s an indication that the speaker’s proficiency may be best characterized as Novice High.

Appropriate question types for speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level include the following:

  • Open-ended questions: ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tus horas libres?
  • Polite requests: Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.

You will also find yes/no and directed information questions in video clips at this level. As you watch the videos in this module, focus on the interviewer’s purpose.

  • Topic openers: Te especializas en español, ¿verdad?
  • Topic continuers: ¿Tú eres el hijo único?

What to Expect

Interviewers can ask questions targeted at tasks at the Novice Low/Mid level or at the Intermediate Low/Mid level to evaluate speakers who may be in between – at the Novice High level. In the two interviews included in this module, the interviewers mostly pose questions that would work well for speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level. Questions like Cuéntame un poco de tu familia are intended to elicit responses of several sentences that give information about various family members. What students choose to say is entirely up to them. Some may talk about their siblings and others about their parents; some may mention their parents’ names and ages, and others may talk about their professions; and some (but not all) may volunteer information about members of their extended families (e.g., grandparents, brother-in-law, nieces and nephews).

The interviewer asks follow-up questions to invite the learner to provide additional details. When the interviewer asks a yes/no question as a topic continuer, the answer is almost always “no”; it is natural in such moments to give additional information to correct what appears to be a misunderstanding on the part of the interviewer. You will see examples of this technique in the video clips in this module.

Speakers at the Novice High level sound like Intermediate Low/Mid level speakers at times—they give information in sentence-level discourse, they sometimes produce strings of sentences on the same topic, and they are sometimes able to maintain a conversation. But what distinguishes speakers at this level from those at the Intermediate Low/Mid level is their inability to sustain communication at the Intermediate level.

2. Watch the Interviews

There are two video interviews in this module, and you will be watching each interview twice. In the first viewing of Jacob’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Jacob (topic - family)

In the second viewing, focus on Jacob’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

2. ¿Ella es psicóloga?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. ¿Tú eres el hijo único?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

4. ¿Qué te gusta hacer en tus horas libres?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

5. ¿Adónde vas, por ejemplo?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

Each level on the proficiency scale indexes a broad range, not a single point in a numerical scale. This means that each level encompasses stronger and weaker speakers, as well as speakers with diverse linguistic profiles. What is true for all speakers at this level (and this is true for the other levels also) is that their responses fulfill the criteria for the level, but not for the next higher level.

As you watch the next video interview in which Brian talks about his hometown, you will notice that Brian and Jacob are different types of speakers. In the analysis section that follows, consider aspects of their speech samples to understand why they are both rated Novice High.

In the first viewing of Brian’s interview, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Brian (topic - hometown)

In the second viewing, focus on Brian’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Tú eres de Houston?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

2. ¿Por qué es tan bueno Austin?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. ¿Y haces todo esto?

__ Open-ended
__ Polite request
__ Yes/No as topic opener
__ Yes/No as topic continuer

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of the Novice High Speaker

Remember that the interviewers mostly used questions appropriate for Intermediate Low/Mid-level responses, with the idea that Novice High speakers can be thought of as “almost Intermediate Low/Mid speakers.” The hallmark of the Intermediate Low/Mid level is to sustain a simple conversation across multiple turns. To do this, learners have to be able to provide information about themselves—their families, interests, academic plans, and so forth. Interviewers typically ask fewer questions than at the Novice Low/Mid level, because speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level are able to assume responsibility for sustaining the conversation. Speakers who are able most of the time, but not consistently, to perform like Intermediate Low/Mid speakers are rated at the Novice High level.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

  1. Refer to the descriptions of the Novice High level and to the notes you took while watching the video clips. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.
  2. Look at the interview questions. Why does she ask Brian so few questions?
  3. Watch the two video clips again. Write down one stretch of speech for each speaker in which they perform like Intermediate Low/Mid-level speakers. Then write down one stretch of speech for each one in which they fail to meet the criteria of the Intermediate Low/Mid level. Justify your responses.
  4. Jacob and Brian are different types of speakers. Compare their speaking styles in Spanish. Does Brian’s (poor) pronunciation contribute to his Novice High proficiency rating? And does Jacob’s (poor) fluency contribute to his Novice High proficiency rating?
  5. Brian talks about events in the past, using the first-person preterite verb form. Speakers at the Novice High level typically cannot keep their discourse in the past. Why is Brian’s speech rated at Novice High and not at a higher level? (You may wish to answer this question now and then return to it again after you have worked with speech samples at the Intermediate High and Advanced levels.)

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

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  • Name: Jacob
  • Topic: Family
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  • Name: Brian
  • Topic: Hometown

Module 1.1 Novice Low/Mid

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Module 1.1 NoviceLow-Mid

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels  Spanish

Part 1  Module 1.1

ACTFL Level: Novice Low/Mid

Key Linguistic Feature: Produce words and phrases

1. Prepare to Observe

About the Novice Low/Mid Speaker

This module encompasses ACTFL levels Novice Low and Novice Mid. Speakers at this level typically rely on their knowledge of words and phrases in Spanish to communicate. They have little control over verb forms or other grammatical features that would enable them to form sentences. The sentences they can produce largely consist of memorized chunks, such as Hay cinco personas en mi familia or Me llamo Scott. Although they are not able to participate fully in a conversation, they can have short interactions with teachers and others who know to speak slowly and clearly, use simple language, and limit themselves to familiar, basic topics that lend themselves to making lists, such as family members, school subjects, weekend activities, and favorite foods.

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are intended to apply to all types of learners—students in classrooms, immigrants who learn the language solely by using it in daily life, and everyone in between. As a result, the linguistic profiles of speakers at the same level may be quite different. In the case of speakers at the Novice Low/Mid level, however, there is much similarity among speakers.

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

Interview Questions

In the video to follow, you will see that the speaker has the intention to engage in conversation, the point of departure for all oral proficiency interviews. From there, the interviewer modifies the interview questions so that the learner can respond briefly using words and phrases.

Appropriate question types to ask speakers at the Novice Low/Mid level include the following:

  • Yes/No questions: ¿Estudias en la Universidad de Texas?
  • Directed information questions that can be answered with a single word or a short phrase: ¿Dónde vives? or with a series of words/phrases: ¿Qué deportes practicas?
  • Embedded choice questions, in which the answer is contained in the question: ¿Vives en una residencia de la universidad o en un apartamento?

Because all oral proficiency interviews start with the assumption that a simple conversation will be possible, you may also hear questions that are designed to elicit the sentence-level spontaneous speech that is characteristic of speakers at the Intermediate Low/Mid level. Doing this helps to gauge the limits of the speaker’s proficiency.  

Example questions:

  • Open-ended questions: ¿Cómo es la Universidad de Texas?
  • Polite requests: Háblame de tu familia.

What to Expect

When Novice Low/Mid-level speakers are asked a question at their level, they often respond easily. For example, a speaker at this level may produce a series of words in response to a question such as ¿Qué deportes te gustan? However, when asked to give information about a familiar topic in one or more sentences, the speaker is unable to do so. For example, in response to an open-ended question such as ¿Cómo es tu familia? the speaker may continue to make lists, such as Madre, padre, hermano, or may put words together in an approximation of a Spanish sentence, such as Mi familia es madre, padre, hermano. Although these responses are comprehensible to listeners who are used to talking to learners with minimal communicative ability, they do not fulfill the criteria of “maintain simple conversation” or “communicate via . . . spontaneous language” that characterize the Novice High level.

2. Watch the Interview

You will be watching the following video interview twice. In the first viewing, focus on the interview questions, which are provided in the table below, and complete the column about question type.

Interview: Natalie (topic - hometown)

In the second viewing, focus on Natalie’s responses and write your notes in the third column.

Interview Questions

Question Type

Features of Response

1. ¿Cómo es Beaumont? Descríbeme Beaumont.

__ Yes/No
__ Directed information
__ Embedded choice
__ Open-ended
__ Polite request

2. ¿Cuántas personas viven allí?

___ Yes/No
__ Directed information
__ Embedded choice
__ Open-ended
__ Polite request

3. ¿Está en la playa?

__ Yes/No
__ Directed information
__ Embedded choice
__ Open-ended
__ Polite request

4. ¿Está al norte de Galveston?

__ Yes/No
__ Directed information
__ Embedded choice
__ Open-ended
__ Polite request

5. ¿Hay atracciones turísticas?

__ Yes/No
__ Directed information
__ Embedded choice
__ Open-ended
__ Polite request

3. Analyze Speaker Performance

Review of the Novice Low/Mid Speaker

Speakers at the Novice Low/Mid level cannot spontaneously create their own meaning in sentence-level discourse in response to open-ended questions. A strong Novice Mid-level speaker has a large basic vocabulary, including kinship terms, colors, days of the weeks, rooms in a house, classroom objects, foods, and sports. A speaker at the lower end of the Novice Low level may have a vocabulary of fewer than 20 words. All Novice speakers can respond to directed information questions by producing single words or short phrases. They rely heavily on learned phrases, whether in a classroom or in another context of language use.

Questions for Analysis and Discussion

Refer to the descriptions of the Novice Low/Mid level provided and to the notes you took while watching the video clip of Natalie talking about her hometown. Consider these questions on your own or discuss them with a small group.

  1. Look at the interviewer’s first question (2 questions together). What types of questions are they? Is she eliciting a performance feature of the Novice Low/Mid level or of a higher level? Why does she start this way?
  2. How does Natalie respond to the interviewer’s first question? What signal does she give to the interview about her proficiency level?
  3. Does Natalie produce any well-formed sentences in this speech segment?
  4. How many different Spanish words does Natalie produce in this speech segment? How many of them does she repeat from the interviewer’s questions? How many of her words are based on what she knows and can say on her own?

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu

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  • Name: Nathalie
  • Topic: Hometown

Part 1 Overview

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_Part 1 Overview

Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels - Spanish
Part 1

Overview

Part 1 of Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels is designed to help Spanish language teachers:

  1. Gain an understanding of the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking.
  2. Evaluate the oral proficiency of Spanish language learners at all levels.    

This resource 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 1 can be completed individually or in a small group.

Organization of Modules

Part 1 contains seven modules and covers ACTFL Levels Novice Low to Advanced Mid. Each module includes 1 or 2 video interviews with Spanish speakers and guides teachers in viewing, analyzing, and assessing the video(s). Each video focuses on one level and one linguistic feature of the speaker that is associated with that level. For each module, you will be guided through these three phases:

1. Prepare to Observe         

This phase includes a description of one key linguistic feature associated with the proficiency level of the module and an explanation of how the interviewer’s questions are designed to elicit that feature. You’ll be prepared for what to listen for in the speaker’s response in order to evaluate the level of proficiency.

2. Evaluate the Interview

In this phase, you will watch the video(s) that illustrate the targeted proficiency level and key linguistic feature. This section includes prompts for you to consider various aspects of the interviewer’s role as well as the actual speech sample.

3. Analyze Speaker Performance 

In this phase, guiding questions will direct you in analyzing and reflecting on the performance of the speaker, particularly relating to the module’s key linguistic feature.

www.oralproficiency.coerll.utexas.edu