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Do you think the language levels might pull some people back?


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The common European framework divides learning languages into different levels and sometimes sub levels. This framework is probably used almost all over the globe when it comes to learning a new language.

The levels have three major divisions and under those about three more sub-divisions. Basically there is the basic speaker division, independent speaker and proficient speaker. What I am wondering is, do you not think that dividing it this way might hinder some people from progressing and actually finally being fluent in a language they are learning?

I ask this because I remember a certain girl back in college being put in the basic speaker level French class even though she understood the language and only had a problem with writing it well.

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Yes, I do.

Sometimes the system is just not practical.  And it does focus to much on writing in the basic subset, while it should focus on interacting and understanding. As with learning your own language and mother tongue you first learn to speak before learning to read and then to write.

Some people will not "get" the writing part until they actually have a firm grasp on the language , and can formulate complete and meaningful sentences in speech.

Other thrive well on the rules and repetition of the vocabulary and grammar rules, and will do great on tests in written form, but can not make a coherent speech in person to person.

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ABSOLUTELY. when I was in high school we had Spanish 1, 2, 3, and 4 but kids never took it seriously, except for a few of us. So each year we would have to completely relearn EVERYTHING and I felt like I was never progressing until I took Spanish 4, and had a Spanish class of 5 kids who were genuinely interested in the language.

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The common European framework divides learning languages into different levels and sometimes sub levels. This framework is probably used almost all over the globe when it comes to learning a new language.

The levels have three major divisions and under those about three more sub-divisions. Basically there is the basic speaker division, independent speaker and proficient speaker. What I am wondering is, do you not think that dividing it this way might hinder some people from progressing and actually finally being fluent in a language they are learning?

I ask this because I remember a certain girl back in college being put in the basic speaker level French class even though she understood the language and only had a problem with writing it well.

I get your point. However, I think it is very difficult to shape classes in a different way. I couldn't come up with sometimes better myself, at least not without thinking about it thoroughly. Do you have any suggestions on how classes could be 'shaped' in a different way? I would love to hear about that then  :grin:

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I see it as a double-edged sword. Some people might be hindered if being placed in a certain level, especially if that person is assigned to the wrong level. Being placed in the wrong level could definitely discourage the person as he's not getting the right stimulation. So, it's highly likely that the person ends up frustrated with the classes.

However, for those who are truly learning step-by-step, and they started from the most basic level corresponding to their skills, then the leveling could be beneficial for them. Reaching the higher level could be something for the learner to aspire for. Thus, it'll give him the right motivation to improve.

As to your example, perhaps what's best is to not consider speaking and writing as one package. These two are just two different skills that assigning a level as one, might proved problematic. (Btw, my understanding of leveling is to incorporate the two: speaking and writing). I believe they shouldn't be. Your friend should have been assigned a higher level for speaking, but a lower one for writing.

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I do think it is quite important to split students in classes based on their ability to learn the language. In that way less students will be left behind or feel uncomfortable to ask questions and progress. On the other hand, the fast learners won't be held back either.

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It seems to me that language levels are mostly a hindrance when it comes to learning a new language. A lot of my new students approach me with a level of anxiety about their particular English level. They come to our institute, eager to attend the higher level English classes without wanting to cover the basics that they often require. So, I keep telling them that before they can walk, they need to learn how to crawl.

In my opinion, the various language levels are obviously necessary to create an organised system of progress in learning, but they are overemphasized.

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It may, it may not. Some people may feel that they're at a certain level, and being put in a lower level may knock their confidence and even hold them back. It may be detrimental to their learning process as their classmates may well be far behind them in terms of proficiency, resulting in a much slower learning process for them. I can imagine this being very frustrating.

I absolutely agree with takibari classes are ok to divide according to the level of proficiency, but it's imperative to separate the written and oral aspects. Students should certainly be tested as a means of placing them at the right level. I could be wrong, but I'm almost certain that this is how they do it in the UK for Modern Foreign Languages.

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It may, it may not. Some people may feel that they're at a certain level, and being put in a lower level may knock their confidence and even hold them back. It may be detrimental to their learning process as their classmates may well be far behind them in terms of proficiency, resulting in a much slower learning process for them. I can imagine this being very frustrating.

I absolutely agree with takibari classes are ok to divide according to the level of proficiency, but it's imperative to separate the written and oral aspects. Students should certainly be tested as a means of placing them at the right level. I could be wrong, but I'm almost certain that this is how they do it in the UK for Modern Foreign Languages.

I like that word - imperative -! It really has a nice ring to it and totally right about separating the written and oral aspects! These two being distinct skills need to be treated separately. I once took a TOEIC exam, and I got a perfect score!! I'm proud that I managed to ace that particular Listening and Reading exam. But I highly doubt if I can perform the same way with the speaking test, haha! I don't know why I'm not really good with speaking. I suck, haha! So, I can't imagine myself being in a class with classmates who are more proficient than me in speaking. I'd certainly be pulled back.

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Well obviously no system is ever perfect, but I think the EU framework is pretty good. It's pretty comprehensive I think. The saying "you're only as strong as your weakest link" applies here. I mean if you had lower level writing skills but were in the upper level classes, wouldn't you REALLY struggle?

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To be honest levles are not relevant for me, I don't really think much about them when learning a new language. Right now I am learning a new language, I need to reach certain level in order to pass an exam that will decide whether I get my permanent residence permit to live in that country or not. 

But I'm not too stressed about it, isn't like reaching that specific level is my goal, because I know I have to learn as much as I can before the exam, so I'll not be focusing solely on the course; I'll also use other materials. Hopefully my level will be way higher by the time I take the exam. 

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I do think it is quite important to split students in classes based on their ability to learn the language. In that way less students will be left behind or feel uncomfortable to ask questions and progress. On the other hand, the fast learners won't be held back either.

As a former teacher I can tell you that's not always possible, sadly.  I had to give classes to children that didn't seem to be on the same level... some seemed to know way less than their classmates,  it was a nightmare.  Sometimes a lot mistakes are made when making the evaluation to locate some students in certain levels.  Then it's a mess and so hard for the teachers. 

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I think for any serious learner, the levels one has to progress to are a very important element in the course of sturdy. One is able to gauge his progress and make efforts to advance to the next level. So the levels act as a motivator to work harder to progress to the next stage stage.

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I agree. I think these types of standardizations and generalizations can a lot of times prove to be detrimental. However, I won't argue that it is somewhat necessary since it is hardly practical to review each case and treat it with subjectivity. Maybe the best compromise would be to just have certain cases be up for debate and reconsideration.

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Standardization is really a necessity. Having levels as the norm make it easier to track a learner's progress. It will surely be a nightmare to not have levels as that could open up to a lot subjectivity. Speaking of subjectivity, a teacher friend of mine once mentioned that she has a student who clearly belonged to a much lower level, but the student was just persistent insisting that he be put in a higher level. According to that student, being placed in the correct level just doesn't motivate him. He reasoned that he fairly understand how much he'll struggle if he's placed in the higher level, but to him the struggle is what will help him more. Unfortunately, I don't know how things went with that student when he was placed in a higher level class. This just makes me think how tricky this leveling can get especially in cases like the one mentioned. Because to me, a student who knows what he wants clearly will try his utmost best to learn and he's unable to do so if leveling is to be strictly followed.

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I like that word - imperative -! It really has a nice ring to it and totally right about separating the written and oral aspects! These two being distinct skills need to be treated separately. I once took a TOEIC exam, and I got a perfect score!! I'm proud that I managed to ace that particular Listening and Reading exam. But I highly doubt if I can perform the same way with the speaking test, haha! I don't know why I'm not really good with speaking. I suck, haha! So, I can't imagine myself being in a class with classmates who are more proficient than me in speaking. I'd certainly be pulled back.

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I get your point. However, I think it is very difficult to shape classes in a different way. I couldn't come up with sometimes better myself, at least not without thinking about it thoroughly. Do you have any suggestions on how classes could be 'shaped' in a different way? I would love to hear about that then  :grin:

I agree with you, it must be rather difficult to shape them differently however wouldn't just grouping people in different segments in terms of oral and written be best? I mean if I am 'fluent' in a certain foreign language but still struggle with putting my thoughts down on paper would it not be better to go with my strength rather than horn in on my weakness?

Basically what I am saying is that it really maybe should be up to the individual, some people are fast learners whereas some are not... so slotting people in these levels should be something done by both the institution and the individual equally! I understand that the system brings some order and some progression but I really feel that sometimes it does more harm than it should be doing.

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I think it's just appropriate for fast and slow learners to be divided so that the teachers can be guided accordingly  regarding how they teach, right? Slow and fast learners have different needs to be fulfilled, like slow learners need more attention than the fast learners, so I think that the language level system is just right.

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I think it's just appropriate for fast and slow learners to be divided so that the teachers can be guided accordingly  regarding how they teach, right? Slow and fast learners have different needs to be fulfilled, like slow learners need more attention than the fast learners, so I think that the language level system is just right.

I agree with you to a certain point sidney, yes slow learners need much more attention and should be giving a chance to learn at their pace. However what of someone who like I stated previously is excellent at writing a certain language but still struggles with the oral bit of it? Do you think that particular person should be allocated to the 'slow learner' class anyways just because of that factor?

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I agree with you to a certain point sidney, yes slow learners need much more attention and should be giving a chance to learn at their pace. However what of someone who like I stated previously is excellent at writing a certain language but still struggles with the oral bit of it? Do you think that particular person should be allocated to the 'slow learner' class anyways just because of that factor?

It really depends on the person, some people like myself would prefer to improve on our weakest area first and THEN move forward. I would NOT enjoy struggling with any skill in a class, even if I'm on par with everyone else in all other areas

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Is it just me or is the discussion moving towards subjectivity; to each his own. Personally, I think that's why proponents of leveling came up with a standard (that is, the leveling) precisely to prevent students from pursuing what they 'personally' think is best for them. Can you imagine how an institute will prepare for their classes if they are to entertain everyone's expressed preference? Might be a nightmare to the teacher. Simply put, leveling provides order and structure. That said, I guess this should be applicable to institutes, and not to the individual learner. The individual learner in this scheme can demand from the tutor on how s/he should proceed.

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When I was in school, I was considered to be good at languages, I wasn't that great, but we were mainly set using comprehension questions.  My comprehension of written language is fantastic and always has been compared to the other areas, but I have always had trouble with understanding foreign languages when they're spoken and my pronunciation tends to be pretty bad as I can't roll 'r's and I have a bit of a lisp 'th', 'ff' and 'sh' all sound pretty similar when I say them, I also have a little trouble hearing the difference between 'th' and 'ff'.  Considering I took Spanish, French and German, German was the only language I could pronounce semi-accurately.  I could have used the extra help available at lower levels for everything but reading and writing, nowadays I try to spend half an hour a day or so listening to the 'News in Slow French' podcast to compensate.

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@ Trellum, it is quite common here to stream students. We have an annual assessment test that is carried out for all age levels and which proves to be very effective. The students with the lowest ability are usually place in a special class so they are able to succeed.

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I agree with you to a certain point sidney, yes slow learners need much more attention and should be giving a chance to learn at their pace. However what of someone who like I stated previously is excellent at writing a certain language but still struggles with the oral bit of it? Do you think that particular person should be allocated to the 'slow learner' class anyways just because of that factor?

In your first post, it said that she struggled with writing the language, so which is which? Anyway, I think that your friend should be placed in the advanced section, but maybe because of her writing or oral skills, she was placed in the slow learning group. I guess to be properly placed in the fast learning group you really would need to be improved 100% in your oral and writing skills. Which part is she having difficulty doing anyway, the written or oral part?

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FWIW, I was placed at German B2 based on a written test but my oral skills are seriously lagging behind. Some kind of objective standard is indeed necessary in order to really judge the level of competence, but in order to be reliable it should really be split into oral/written and comprehension/production.

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