Proficiency Levels in Language

In language education, language proficiency refers to one’s general language knowledge and skills for using the target language for various communicative purposes. However, researchers disagree about what proficiency entails, with the differences reflecting their theoretical orientations.

For example, generative linguists, influenced by the work of Noam Chomsky, restrict their focus to grammatical knowledge. Dell Hymes, a sociolinguist, expanded the scope to emphasize the social appropriateness of language use. He proposed as a model communicative competence, which includes both knowledge (not only grammatical knowledge but also sociolinguistic knowledge) and the ability for use (one’s potential ability to use the language in socially appropriate ways).

Although Hymes’s proposed model was situated in the first-language (L1) contexts, his notion of communicative competence greatly influenced succeeding models of language proficiency for ...

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