Lesson 2: Proficiency and Cultural Literacy


How is language acquired? Does language acquisition proceed linearly or cumulatively? There was a time when language acquisition was thought to progress in a linear manner. Level of proficiency was based on the number of years devoted to the study. In more recent decades, there came a shift to understand that language acquisition proceeds cumulatively, and should be based on one's functional ability and not the number of years of study. ACTFL supports this understanding. So if language acquisition is, indeed, a culmination of learning, how can we best measure it?


How does language acquisition proceed?

Duration: 04:55

Using your own students as a model, try to establish among them a singular measure of ability in their common language of study after one year of instruction. What can they ALL do? What can SOME do? What can NONE do? Is there a singular measure of accomplishment among the members of this group?

Inverted Pyramid of Proficiency

ACTFL's iconic inverted pyramid is a handy device for illustrating the cumulative process of language acquisition. It is an even better device for conveying to students how complex advanced mastery of a language really is.


Considering language acquisition as cumulative.

Duration: 04:29

Take a look at the ACTFL Generic Guidelines for Speaking and try to self-assess your own level on the ACTFL Proficiency Pyramid.

ACTFL Generic Guidelines for Speaking

Contact Time in the Target Language

ACTFL guidelines prescribe the number of hours required to reach each stage in the inverted pyramid of proficiency. The reality is that those number far exceed the classroom hours available to students. So how can we increase our students' exposure to the language?


How to increase exposure and interaction with the target language.

Duration: 05:40