Beginning Language Learner
If you are a beginning language learner, the first step is to define your goals and objectives.
Then you need to rate yourself regularly to celebrate your accomplishments and work on weaknesses
(yep, youll have to revisit and revise your goals from time to time). This page will help you do
both. The ratings for Beginning Language Learners are divided into Levels 1, 2, and 3. Look at both
the Goals and Self-Test to help figure out your level.
In each category below, use the Goals section to identify your broad needs and the Self-Test
section to identify specific near-term objectives. Then, regularly rate yourself against the items
in the Self-Test for that section. Be sure to keep the cluster idea in mind as you do your self-test.
That is, just knowing how to say hello and goodbye is not enough to pass out of beginning language
Level 2. You should be able to muster a variation or two, such as hi, howdy, or whats up, plus
so long, see ya later, or bye-bye. With your mentor, identify the most appropriate skills, such
as greetings and leave-takings, for your goals.
Note: Are you working your own language learning program? Download the Walkabout Language Learning Action Guide.
It includes all of the "Rate Yourself" levels, and provides space for you to track your own progress. This guide walks you through
each step of Walkabout Language Learning. You'll see your language skills accelerate as you follow the instructions in this guide.
Download it today.
Beginner Level 1
Able to respond to or speak a few isolated words those borrowed from English, or commonly used,
e.g., gracias, ciao, etc.
Have identified myself as a beginning language learner.
- I can say "hello" and "goodbye."
- I can count to ten.
- I can use courtesy words such as "Thank you" and "Excuse me."
- I know a handful of words.
- I am eager to begin learning my target language.
- I have set some goals for my language learning.
Beginner Level 2
Able to recognize and express very simple needs in polite language. Use mostly memorized words
and phrases. Able to say short phrases if given time to think about what I want to say.
Able to recite a nursery rhyme or sing a simple song.
I recognize that I speak in a heavy accent with many errors and confuse sounds that are similar,
and that my speech is difficult to understand, even to teachers used to working with beginning
- I can respond to simple commands such as "Stand up" and "Come here."
- I can greet people and take my leave correctly, such as How are you and I must go.
- I can ask basic questions, using who, what, when, and where.
- I can make simple statements and commands such as "It's hot" and "Turn on the light."
- I can make simple requests and appropriate thank-yous.
- I can use at least fifty words in appropriate contexts.
- I can sing one verse of a folk song or popular sing-along tune.
- I have to work hard to make many of the new sounds, and I often have to pause to find words
that express my thoughts.
- I frequently use circumlocution, that is, I choose words close to my intended meaning because
I dont know the correct word I want. For example, I say my fathers brothers daughter instead
- I find it difficult to catch even words I know, when they are mixed with normal speech
by my instructors.
- People often ask me to repeat myself; some dont seem to realize I am speaking their language.
- I can perform at least one task at the Beginner high level.
Beginner Level 3
Able to ask questions and make simple statements based on memorized sentences. Understand
conversation fragments and simple commands.
Able to deal with simple topics of daily need though I speak mostly in short, direct sentences.
I can say some longer phrases and sentences if given time to think about them first.
Though I still make frequent errors in pronunciation and word use, and frequently ask
speakers to slow down or repeat, I can communicate with close acquaintances (e.g., host
family or co-workers). Behave considerately in dealing with host country nationals. Understand
some nonverbal cues.
- I can initiate and close conversations appropriately.
- I understand and can make simple statements or ask simple questions about family, age,
address, weather, daily activities, time, date, and day of the week.
- I understand some words when the context helps explain them, e.g., in a cafe, the
- My vocabulary includes names of basic concepts: days, months, numbers to 1-100, articles
of clothing, body parts, and family relationships.
- I can use at least one hundred nouns and verbs in appropriate contexts.
- I still find it difficult to understand native speakers (in spite of my growing vocabulary).
- I often have to repeat myself, particularly when Im with new acquaintances or strangers.
- I am beginning to know what's expected of me in simple social situations.
- I can perform at least two tasks at the intermediate low level.
Return from Beginning Language Learner to Define Language Needs
Return to Your Language Guide home
Goal Setting Quote
Beginning language learners do a lot of listening; just like babies listen to their native
language for months before they begin saying words.
The process works more quickly with children and youth, of course, but understanding language still precedes speaking it.
--Concordia Language Villiages
Take a break from your language self test to check out the latest additions to our multicultural
This section offers both fictional and non-fictional stories and essays set in regions around the world.
You can read them on line for FREE.