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Introduction to Oral Proficiency Levels Spanish
Part 2 Module 2.2
ACTFL level: Intermediate Low/Mid
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:
Cuéntame un poco de tu familia.
Follow-up question 1 (Question type?)
Follow-up question 2 (Question type?)
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?
Video(s) Referenced in this Module
- Name: Kim
- Topic: Family
- Name: Jenny
- Topic: Family