The Language Biography is based on what is known as the Five C’s of Language Learning and contains working documents, or templates, to help you to become a lifelong learner. The most important of the five C’s is communication, and the communication self-assessment section consists of five self-assessment checklists for your communication skills. The 5 skills are listening, reading, writing, spoken production, and spoken interaction. The checklists ask you both to show what you can do now, and to indicate what your communication goals are for the future. This communication section is the defining characteristic of the Language Biography used in the Global Language Portfolio.
As a learner, when you complete your checklists in five skill areas, you will have a choice between the American and European rating scales. The American rating scale goes from novice, to intermediate, to advanced, superior, and distinguished. It is most appropriate for university outcomes assessment activities that are based on the levels established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is also the rating scale used most widely to certify candidates for teacher education throughout the United States. The accrediting body in teacher education has as a goal for candidates graduating from accredited teacher education programs a minimum rating of Advanced Low in speaking, and there are official tests are used to back up that rating. On the other hand, those planning to study abroad in Europe, Canada, Latin America, and even Asia, will find that governments and universities abroad frequently use and sometimes require that those planning to study abroad or to carry out internship activities use the European scale known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
As soon as you know which rating scale you prefer, or that your instructor prefers, download the forms for either the ACTFL scale or the CEFR scale, and place them in a new subfolder marked “Language Biography”.
ACTFL Communication Checklists
CEFR Communication Checklists
Complete these forms at the time designated by your instructor, or slowly at your own pace if you are an independent learner. Note that to complete a form using boxes in Microsoft Word, you need only double-click in the box, and on the screen you will be asked to indicate whether you would like the box checked. This is how you get an “x” inside each box.
If you are doing a portfolio for several languages, whether as an adult learner or a university student, you should have a separate set of communication checklists for each language. In that case, you would create subfolders within the “Language Biography” folder to distinguish the languages for which you are providing self ratings.
These checklists are more than self assessments. They are also planning documents designed to help you plan beyond your lesson goals, course goals, and program goals. They also teach you how to plan by yourself once your formal study has ended. Checking off a “can do” statement in the first column indicates what you already can do 80% of the time or more, and checking off the second column indicates that you are working on this goal but have not yet achieved it. If you are satisfied with where you are and do not want to achieve a higher goal, once your immediate goals are met, any future goals are optional. However, if you are interested in going beyond, these checklists should help you plan. Do your personal plans stop with course goals? Do you want to set goals based on becoming a successful tourist? to be able to read material that is necessary for your academic or professional activity? to prepare for a future career move? Looking over “can do” statements that are beyond your current level can help you to decide. All 3 sections of the Language Biography prepare you for lifelong learning.
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