When we say that someone is fluent in a language, we usually mean that they have high-level skills in all five key linguistic areas – speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary and language use. However, everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses, and while they may be able to achieve a high level in writing, they may be unable to speak at a similar level. When evaluating language skills, we should take into account every relevant aspect, on a case-by-case basis. Why? Let’s look at it in more detail.
Language proficiency is a very important skill in today’s world. For an increasing number of companies servicing customers from different countries, the ability to use foreign languages not only becomes an additional aspect of the recruitment process, even one of the most important elements of the candidate’s profile. However, in order to properly assess the candidate’s level of foreign language use for a specific job position, it is important to know which aspects should be considered.
Language use requires an array of skills
The ability to use a foreign language in various contexts requires many different language skills. Therefore, if we need to verify the language proficiency for a given job or university position, it is necessary to carry out an accurate test covering the five basic skills, to increase the accuracy and reliability of the assessment.
Presuming a level of mastery in one skill on the basis of another skill may lead to incorrect conclusions. For example: we cannot state that a person speaks fluently based on the results of a listening test, or language proficiency in terms of grammar or vocabulary. If we want to assess somebody’s speaking skill, we need to listen to how they speak. The same applies to other skills.
In 2001, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) expanded the definition of the ability to use a foreign language as a form of communication. Speaking was divided into two separate skills: speaking and interaction. We often forget how much these two elements differ from each other.
Speaking refers to the ability to communicate in the form of a monologue. In the case of interaction, we evaluate a person both as a speaker and a listener, whether they are able to maintain a dialogue in a communicative and smooth manner. So if we want to check the speaking skill, we need to focus on how well they speak and interact with their interlocutor – which is possible thanks to linguistic verification supported by auditors.
Conversations are not enough
In order to entrust an employee with a job where fluency in a foreign language is obligatory, we cannot limit the verification of language skills to a short conversation during an interview.
Employers need to know the language proficiency level of their staff. It is extremely important to detail the skills in speaking, reading, writing, vocabulary and language use. Neglecting any of these may lead to unfortunate misunderstandings when dealing with customers or business partners, and could even result in financial losses.
Written tests are not enough either
Many jobs require an employee to use language in both formal and informal situations, such as making presentations, participating in discussions, writing reports, creating e-mails or just making small talk. A team lacking the ability to use language as part of everyday communication significantly limits the growth opportunities for the employer.
In order to provide employers as well as educational and training organisations with reliable information crucial in making effective decisions, we cannot rely solely on written tests. The results of such tests, ignoring the diversity of language competences and their applications, are usually inadequate in terms of relevant information.
A multiple choice test is an excellent example. This type of verification may tell us whether one meaning of one particular word is understood, but not necessarily whether the language user can apply this word and understand its meaning in various contexts.
Audit as an effective method of verification
In order to meet the needs of companies as well as educational and training organisations with regard to the verification of language skills, the Skrivanek language school has developed a modern online platform – FOCUS Audit Tool. With it you gain objective and reliable feedback on the levels of the different language skills of the people audited.
We deliver a report within 48 hours of the test, including the auditor’s comments, presenting an objective assessment of particular language skills consistent with the CEFR scale (A1-C1) and recommendations for improving the skills. Our audits can verify every language skill:
- language use
Obviously some organisations do not need a comprehensive evaluation of all the language skills of their candidate or employee. In such situations, the modular nature of FOCUS Audit Tool allows tests to be created where the focus is on the assessment of particular language skills. This solution allows you to focus on the particular skills necessary to meet specific requirements in a given job.
We assist companies in Poland and elsewhere. Our language audit tool is used by companies operating in such countries as Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania. You are most welcome to contact us – let us help you verify the levels of foreign language use among your employees and job candidates.