How to Measure Language Competence

Instructors and individuals dealing with languages have their own ways to measure language competence in students. Researchers of various kinds may also need to assess how certain populations have developed language skills. Measuring language competence is a complex task. It requires a lot of knowledge of the target language as well as various scientific or technical protocols applied to the process of understanding quantitative language skills in a person or group of people. Here are some basic steps you can follow if you need to measure language competence for specific goals and objectives.


  1. Image titled Measure Language Competence Step 1
    Develop specific scales for language competence. Because the idea of developing language skills in a certain language is so subjective, it's usually necessary for the instructor or other person who is measuring language skill to set up an arbitrary, but very important, quantitative scale.
    • Attach numbers to your language competence scale. Many individuals will start with a simple scale from 1 to 10. This is a starting point for identifying and using the kinds of criteria you need to measure language competence in a person or group of people.
  2. Image titled Measure Language Competence Step 2
    Attach skills to points of the established scale. Those who will be assessing language skills can attach specific language goals or points of language technique to each number in the scale.
    • Approach issues of basic to advanced syntax and language structure. For example, at the low end of the scale might be "rote phrases" that beginners learn first, usually consisting of salutations, basic information utilizing simple verb tenses and more. Higher up on the scale might be advanced verb tenses and conjugations, along with other syntactical structures like question and response.
    • Attach vocabulary to specific scale points. Vocabulary is also something that provides an important variable for language competence. Higher points on the scale might correspond to certain vocabulary acquisition.
  3. Image titled Measure Language Competence Step 3
    Test all of the relevant skills for language acquisition or competence. Most of the established language tests assess 4 areas of accomplishment: reading, listening, speaking and writing. All of these have their own goals and objectives, as well as their own skills and challenges. Make sure the test that measures language competence is weighted to include all 4 appropriately.
  4. Image titled Measure Language Competence Step 4
    Document the results of tests that measure these core areas. Instructors will need to know how to score each test in order to apply it to the scale mentioned above.


  • Try to make language tests as comprehensive as possible. Many inferior tests suffer from a lack of broader focus, where some important skills may be overlooked and others might be overstressed.

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Categories: World Languages