Measuring your progress

When learning a language it’s sometimes helpful and useful to get an idea of how well you’re progressing. There are a number of ways to do this, including taking language proficiency tests, setting yourself a task to complete using only the language you’re learning, or seeing how much you understand when you listen to or read the language.

When I read things in a foreign language, I try to understand as much as possible without using a dictionary. Any words I don’t know I try to guess from the context. At first I can understand very little, but as my knowledge of the language improves I start to understand a lot more. One way I gauge my progress is to count how many words I have to look up per sentence, paragraph or page. When I can read whole pages or even chapters of books without reaching for a dictionary, I know I’m making good progress. There may be a few words I’m not sure about, but I tend to leave them, as long as they’re not key to my understand of the text.

When listening to a foreign language, on the radio for example, I try to get the gist of what they’re talking about from the words I understand. If I know more of the language in question, I can fill in more of the details. Understanding the news in a foreign language is relatively easy as I’ve usually heard or read the news in English beforehand and know what to expect. Understanding other material can be more of a challenge.

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This entry was posted in Language, Language learning.

2 Responses to Measuring your progress

  1. Todd says:

    I believe in maximum exposure to the language, but when using the osmosis technique I just hit a wall. Eventually I’m reaching for the dictionary and the pen and pencil and things start really speeding up. What I do like to do is let foreign language talk-radio go on in the background, one of the great gifts of the internet. It makes you feel more comfortable with cadences, etc.

    Now I make databases for my handheld organizer with a quiz function. I never actually do the quizzes, but just entering it all in the computer (Arabic text, transliteration, english definition) really gets the engines oiled.

    When reading I just can’t keep my hands off of the dictionary! I try… really.

  2. Benjamin says:

    Yeah, those damn dictionaries…
    When I had to read “Moonpalace” in English lessons, I also felt the permanent need to look up every single word in a dictionary to understand everything 100%. Later I fought this feeling and well – I understood everything just as well as before, but could read faster, not being slowed down by always looking up the words.