Learning a language is often compared to running a marathon. It requires constant effort over a long period of time. While it is easy to measure your performance in running (a simple stopwatch is enough), measuring your progress in language is a little trickier. Indeed, there are many linguistic aspects that cannot be quantified: improvement in pronunciation, oral fluency, comprehension, etc. Tests and level scales are useful tools for estimating progress, but we shall see that there are also some other methods.
Knowing your starting level: the language audit
Learning a language is a long-term process. If you have just started a Spanish course, for example, you will probably want to know after a few months whether your effort is bearing fruit. But how can you assess your progress if you don’t know what your level was before you started the course?
To be able to follow your progress afterwards, the best thing is to know your initial level. Of course, this will not necessarily be useful if you are a total beginner in the language you wish to learn. But if you already have basic knowledge, it is an important step.
Some language evaluation methods offer quick quizzes, for example. For some others, you can also find online assessment tests, which give you an idea of your level. However, these are rarely accurate. To find out in detail about your strengths, weaknesses and possible areas of improvement, the best thing to do is to have a full language audit with a training organisation. A second audit after a few months will allow you to see exactly how much progress you have made.
💡 Find out more about language audits: 1to1PROGRESS level audits
Take certifications to measure your progress
Language certificates (TOEIC, DCL, Pipplet…) are also a good way to track your progress. For example, you can take one every two years to see if you are improving over time.
Some certifications will give you your level in the form of a score, which will allow you to quantify your progress. Others prefer to give you a standardised level. Generally, this is an evaluation on the CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). It has 6 levels:
- A1 and A2: correspond to a beginner to false beginner level;
- B1 and B2: for intermediate and upper intermediate speakers;
- C1 and C2: for an advanced to expert level.
Note: we sometimes hear about the A0 level for absolute beginners.
With these measurement tools, you can therefore monitor and analyse your progress in the language you are learning.
Track vocabulary acquisition
The number of words you know in a language is something you can easily quantify. You can therefore measure your progress accurately. One way of doing this is to use a digital flashcard system, such as the free Anki software.
How does it work? Write the words you want to learn and their translation (and any other information you think is useful) on Anki cards. The software saves them and offers you revision sessions based on spaced repetition. When Anki considers that you have assimilated a word, it records your progress. Of course, it keeps track of the number of words you know: handy, isn’t it?
Take stock of the resources used
Beginners, intermediate and advanced learners do not use the same type of teaching resources.
Basic grammar manuals, Assimil-type methods and other “school” books are more likely to be used by people who are at the beginning of their learning process. Once the intermediate level begins, other resources such as press articles, podcasts or videos start to appear. Finally, once the intermediate level has been reached, we find that there are materials of a much higher linguistic level (medical journals, literary works, etc.).
You can therefore regularly review the resources you are using to see if they are still suitable for your level. If you are bored with the ones you have, you have probably made enough progress to move up to the next level 😊
Conversing with a native speaker
Who better to judge your progress than a native speaker of the language you are learning? He can help you evaluate your pronunciation, speaking skills, conversational fluency, etc.
You can use a language partner, or even better: a professional trainer. The advantage of a trainer is that he will probably be more objective about your level. As an added bonus, he will be able to give you tips on how to improve and advise you on the best learning methods to make progress.
Linguistic audits, preparation for language certificates, adapted teaching resources, follow-up by a native trainer… When you take your training with 1to1PROGRESS, you have all these necessary tools to effectively measure your language learning progress.