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Evaluating Fluency in a Language Other Than English

1. The evaluator must be a native or near-native speaker of the language, capable of verifying language fluency at an advanced level.

2. Normally the evaluator will be connected with a college or university, or will be a professional who is familiar with university-level work and understands the philosophy behind university language requirements.

3. The evaluator will not be a member of the candidate’s family.

4. Oral and written fluency must be verified. Please see below for details on what need to be evaluated.

5. When the evaluator has completed the oral conversation and read the candidate’s writing sample he or she should write a simple letter to the Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures to confirm the candidate’s language proficiency. This may be a simple confirmation of native proficiency, based on the evidence collected. Or, if there are significant weaknesses in the candidate’s performance (e.g. inability to use a wide range of vocabulary; to speak about past, future, or conditional situations; to use correct grammar that indicates only partial knowledge of the language), that should be noted in the letter.

Procedures for Evaluating Language Level

a. Oral fluency
The evaluator should conduct a session of at least 15 minutes in which the person verifying fluency engages the candidate in conversation. (See below for conversation prompts.) The candidate should show that he or she is able to use the language with native facility in terms of richness, variety, and appropriateness of vocabulary as well ability to use complex language structures including, for instance, question forms; a variety of tenses (past, present, future); hypotheticals (“if I won a million dollars, I would…”); imperatives or command forms; narrative structures (ability to tell a brief story about something that happened); linking words such as “because,” “despite this,” “next,” and so forth. The candidate should be able to express fairly sophisticated ideas related to both concrete topics (e.g. “what I like to do in the summer”) and more abstract topics (e.g. “why it’s important to learn a foreign language”).

b. Written fluency
The candidate should write, unassisted by a dictionary or a person, a composition of about one page in which he or she demonstrates fluency in the written language, on the topic indicated below. In the composition, the candidate should show that he or she has a broad vocabulary that goes writing about beyond simple everyday items, and that he or she is able to use complex language structures such as those outlined in part (a) above. Spelling should be correct and language use should show no major grammatical errors. The writing sample should show mastery of structures that are appropriate for the written medium; sentences should be complete and have varied grammatical structures (i.e. not simply repeat the same structure in each sentence). The nature of the ideas expressed is less important than a demonstration that the candidate uses the written language with ease and correctness at a native level.

c. Conversation prompts (expressed in the language being evaluated)
The evaluator may use several or all of these questions to elicit a conversation of the length required.

–Why did you choose to study at Valparaiso University?
–In what circumstances did you learn this language? How did that affect your learning of English? With whom do you speak this language, and when? Have you traveled to the country (countries) where this language is spoken, and what have you done while there?
–What are you majoring in, and what relation does that major have to the career that you hope to have?
–If you won the lottery, what would you do with the proceeds?
–Tell me a story about a class you took (in high school or college) that was a particularly good or bad experience. What happened? What made it good or bad? What have you learned as a result?
–What do you think is the most important news story today? Why is it important? How does it affect you?

d. Writing prompt
Have the candidate write about one double-spaced page on the following prompt. The candidate may not use a dictionary or spell-check program or ask for guidance from any person.

Write about how you learned your non-English language—when, where, from whom. Do you think that your different languages link you to different cultures? If so, in what ways? If not, why not? Then tell about how you think knowing several languages will be useful to you in the future, professionally and personally.