1. Can Level 4 be taught in a classroom?
The simple answer to this is yes. Teachers
have been taking students from Level 3 to Level 4+ for
many years. A number of institutions in countries other
than the United States do this routinely. In the United
States, however, there are few classrooms that purport
to have this goal. There are four that do that the CDLC
knows of at the moment, and most members of the CDLC
are planning to develop courses in a range of languages
to do this, based on the limited expertise available.
Two of the experienced programs are at the Foreign Service
Institute. For more than twenty years, the FSI has taught
at this level. The success of students is determined
by pre-test and post-test, both tests being the ILR
proficiency test. The Russian program at the FSI from
1983-1989 educated a number of Level 3-4+ students with
a 100% success rate, as determined by pre-testing and
post-testing. That program continues to this day. In
addition, around 1990, the FSI developed a similar course
The Specialized Language Training Center in Rockville,
Maryland, which is a member of the CDLC, has routinely
helped students to reach Level 4 and higher since 1987.
Again, pre-testing and post-testing determines the success
rate. The test parallels that of the ILR and is given
by a former ILR tester.
A little known program that teaches students who will
be working on the popularly called "Hot Line"
between Moscow and Washington also prepares students
at and to this level. Once again, students are pre-tested
and post-tested. In this case, the test used is an internally
developed instrument, specific to the needs of that
Middlebury College also some years ago taught Arabic
to this level. However, that no longer appears to be
the case. Nonetheless, CASA in Cairo does this routinely.
The more complex (and more accurate) answer to this
is that it depends on the background of the student
coming into the course and the duration of the course
and a host of other variables that are addressed in
this FAQ and elsewhere.
2. What background should a student
have prior to undertaking study that has a Level 4 goal?
Experience shows that in addition to having
Level 3 proficiency at the outset, a student should
have considerable in-country experience. The latter
could include a job in the country where the language
is spoken, a professional-level internship, or some
other experience where the student has had the opportunity
to live with friends (or roommates) and use the language
in a professional way, although language skills might
have been limited (only Level 2+ or 3).
3. Is study abroad good enough for
in-country experience in order to reach Level 4?
That depends on the study abroad experience
itself. If the study abroad is spent in a classroom
with other American students, then it is unlikely that
this will be enough. Further, if the student lived in
a dormitory or in a complex with other Americans, the
chances are that the range of informal experiences will
be an insufficient base for higher level study. (In
that case, it is unlikely that the proficiency level
of the learner will have reached a minimum of Level
3, either, and Level 3 is a base platform for classroom
study to Level 4.)
Most learners who have reached Level 4 have not only
spent considerable time abroad, but that time has had
similar characteristics to the time that native speakers
spend with their own language. Specifically, most acquired
foreign degrees, studying in classroom with foreign
peers and in isolation from other Americans. (This does
not mean that earlier study abroad experiences which
were quite different were not valuable; at lower levels
of proficiency, traditional study-abroad programs can
be very helpful and bridge the student's passage from
informal proficiency to formal proficiency.)
Many learners who had reached Level 4, when queried,
have stated that everything that they needed to acquire
from studying abroad on traditional programs and interacting
informally with native speakers was accomplished by
Level 3. More of the same did not help them reach higher
levels. Rather, some kind of formal language learning-on-the-job,
in a foreign classroom (studying any discipline that
they would study at home), or in a high-level language
classroom at home-seemed to be the key to reaching the
4. Are there alternatives to living
and studying abroad?
There are alternatives to intensive living
and studying abroad that seem to have worked for some
learners, although nearly all Level 4 language learners
stress the importance of in-country experience. In cases
where in-country experience is difficult to have, some
learners have become a part of an émigré
community in the United States, in effect, living abroad
at home. Others have held jobs that have required high
levels of proficiency in which they worked alongside
colleagues who were native speakers.