A close look at language proficiency in post-secondary programs: Research and implications
Abbott et al’s (2013) final report on the Languages for All? initiative describes a vision in which every student in the country would have access to language learning opportunities in the U.S. within the next decade. It also describes an ideal scenario in which a significant portion of the population (30%) should eventually achieve a level of linguistic and cultural proficiency that would allow them to satisfy basic professional needs (Advanced proficiency), and 20% should reach a full professional level of proficiency that would allow them to function as global professionals (Superior proficiency) or experts (Distinguished proficiency). Are these realistic goals? What levels of proficiency do students learning languages at the post-secondary level typically attain? What types of proficiency do students attain after specific learning sequences? What extra-curricular experiences have the most positive effect on acquisition? In this talk we will explore these and other questions and the implications that they have for language programs. We will review research on proficiency attainment with special attention to data gathered as part of the Flagship Proficiency Initiative (2014-1017), in which over 9,000 college students of a variety of languages at each level of instruction were tested in speaking, reading and listening using national standardized assessments.