What Level in Chinese
Am I Aiming For?
Right at the start of your Chinese studies you need to decide on your
language goals, i.e. what level in Chinese are you hoping to obtain? This
means that you need first to look at your work needs, i.e. for the kind
of work you have come to China to do, what level of proficiency in Chinese
will you need in order to be able to function adequately? Then having
decided on the level you wish to obtain, be determined to press on until
you have reached your goal. What, then, are these different levels?
LEVEL 1: Survival
Level 1 will enable you to carry out minimal activities of daily living.
You should be able to handle routine shopping, order a simple meal, ask
and give directions, deal with travel requirements, tell the time, and
be able to introduce yourself.
LEVEL 2: Conversational
Level 2 will enable you to interact with people in routine social situations
and for limited work requirements. You should be able to engage in superficial
discussions on current events, talk about yourself, your family and your
work. You can handle limited work requirements such as giving simple instructions
or simple explanations and descriptions. At Level 1 most of the things
you could say had been specifically prepared. By Level 2 you can speak
extemporaneously (although in a limited way) about many topics.
LEVEL 3: Minimum Professional
Level 3 will enable you to speak Chinese with sufficient structural accuracy
and vocabulary to satisfy normal social and work requirements. You can
handle professional discussions within a specialized field. You can participate
effectively in all general conversations, and you can discuss topics of
interest with reasonable ease. Your vocabulary is broad enough so that
you rarely have to grope for a word and you use the language well enough
to establish close friendships.
LEVEL 4: Full Professional
Level 4 will enable you to use the language fluently and accurately with
vocabulary that is always extensive and precise enough to enable you to
convey your exact meaning. You can understand and participate in any conversation
with a high degree of fluency and precision of vocabulary. Your speech
is as effortless as your mother tongue, and you are always easy to listen
LEVEL 5: Native
Level 5 will mean that native speakers react to you as they do to each
other. Your speaking proficiency is equivalent in every way to that of
an educated native speaker.
Having read through these five
levels of proficiency, now look again at the work you have come to China
to do and decide on which level you must aim for in order for you to
be able function effectively.
How Am I Doing?
"That's all very fine," you may be saying, "but how do
I know how I'm getting on? Right from the very first sentence I blurted
out, my Chinese friends told me 'Your Chinese is spoken very well'. And
six months later they're still saying the same thing! Then those tests
on my school work which my teachers give me -- I find that they seem to
give little indication as to how I'm really getting on in Chinese."
The self-rating checklist of speaking proficiency set
out on the next page should help you to know how you are progressing.
It is very simple but very effective. Read each statement carefully and
then ask yourself honestly whether or not you are able to perform that
task in Chinese to a reasonable degree. If your answer is 'Yes', then
check (tick) it off. Work through the statements one at a time until you
are unable to check off any more. This will then indicate at which level
you are at present. Approximately three months later, get it out again
and start from where you left off last time, seeing how many more tasks
you are able to perform compared to before. If you feel that your progress
has plateaued off, get the chart out and remind yourself just how far
you have come in Chinese -- this ought to be an encouragement to you that
you are progressing even though you don't feel so!