Language Scale

I/ The most commonly used language difficulty scale is the one developed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI scale). It contains five levels of language learning proficiency.

Level 0:    NO PROFICIENCY

Level 1:     ELEMENTARY PROFICIENCY

Student is able to:
-    order meals;
-    be polite;
-    ask and answer very simple questions about very familiar topics;
-    tell time;
-    tell simple tasks;
-    display a number of errors in pronunciation.

Level 2:    LIMITED WORKING PROFICIENCY

Student is able to:
-    use the language in most basic social situations;
-    handle basic work requirements;
-    talk about current events, yourself, and your family;
-    display foreign accent.

Level 3:    PROFESSIONAL WORKING PROFICIENCY

Student is able to:
-    use the language in most social and work situations in a formal and informal way;
-    understand most speech at normal rate;
-    have a large vocabulary to draw from;
-    but still display a mild accent.


Level 4:    FULL PROFESSIONAL PROFICIENCY

Student is able to use:
-    the language accurately and precisely;
-    interpret informally to and from the language;
-    rarely make grammar mistakes.

Level 5:    NATIVE OR BILINGUAL PROFICIENCY

II/ The British Foreign Office Diplomatic Service Language Centre lists languages in 5 levels of difficulty (class 1 being the hardest)

Class I
Cantonese/ Japanese/ Korean/ Mandarin.

Class II
Amharic/ Arabic Azeri/ Burmese/ Cambodian/ Finnish/ Hebrew/ /Georgian/ Hungarian/ Kazakh/ Kirghiz/ Lao/ Mongolian/ Thai/ Turkmen/ Turkish/ Uzbek/ Vietnamese.

Class III
Albanian/ Armenian Byelorussian/ Bulgarian/ Croatian/ Czech
Dari/ Estonian/ Greek/ Hausa/ Icelandic/ Kurdish/ Latvian/ Lithuanian/ Macedonian/ Maltese/ Persian/ Polish/ Russian/ Serbian/ Slovak/ Slovene/ Ukrainian.

Class IV
Bengali/ Chichewa/ Chinyanji/ German/ Gujurati/ Hindi/ Indonesian/ Irish/ Malay/ Nepali/ Pashtu/ Punjabi/ Romanian/ Sesotho/ Shona/ Siswati/ Swahili/ Tagalog/ Urdu/ Wolof/ Yoruba/ Zulu.

Class V
Afrikaans/ Bislama/ Catalan/ Danish/ Dutch/ French/ Italian/ Norwegian/ Portugese / Spanish/ Swedish.

"Easy" Languages

Ratings of FSI students speaking a Group 1 language after specified periods of training:
8 weeks (240 hours) 1/1+
16 weeks (480 hours) 2
24 weeks (720 hours) 2+

"Hard" Languages

Ratings of FSI students speaking a Group 2-4 language after specified periods of training:
12 weeks (360 hours) 1/1+
24 weeks (720 hours) 1+ /2
44 weeks (1320 hours) 2/2+ /3

III/ The Defense Language Institute (DLI) has developed a separate foreign language difficulty scale (the "DLI scale") based on language relationships and "practical experience". The DLI scale has four categories.

Group I:  About 575-600 hours.
Dutch/ French/ Italian/ Portuguese/ Romanian/ Scandinavian languages/ Spanish

Group I/II: German is between the above and below group, as it requires 750 hours

Group II: Approximately 1100 hours.
Albanian/ Amharic/Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian/ Slavic languages/ Greek/ Hebrew/ Hindi (all Indian languages belonging to the Indo-European branch)/ Hungarian/ Finnish/ Khmer/ Lao / Vietnamese/ Thai/ Burmese/ Baltic languages/ Mongolian/ Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)/ Tagalog/ Turkish/ Uzbek/ Xhosa/ Zulu

Group III:  Approximately 2200 hours.
Arabic/ Cantonese/ Mandarin/ Japanese/ Korean







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