Module 2.8 Advanced High/Superior

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Module 2.8 Advanced High-Superior

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Module 2.8 Advanced High-Superior
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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:



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


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 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?

Video(s) Referenced in this Module

Download Video (mp4)

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

  • Name: Tracy
  • Topic: Sports