What does it mean to be proficient in a language?

Proficiency in the context of language teaching and learning is defined as a learner’s ability to use language meaningfully and appropriately for real-life purposes, rather than simply demonstrating a passive knowledge of the language (Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, 2019). This involves having skills and abilities in different domains of the language, such as listening, reading, speaking, or writing, as well as intercultural competence.

Why is it important to acquire proficiency in world languages?

Proficiency in world languages provides many benefits, including:

  • Increased understanding of diverse individuals, groups, and communities
  • Increased opportunities for employment both domestically and internationally
  • Improved cognitive functioning and academic achievement across subject areas
  • Improved cross-cultural communication skills and abilities to interact with others
  • Improved perceptions of and attitudes toward languages and cultures around the world

Students learning languages at the post-secondary level may be considering future careers involving their language skills, making it important for them to develop a high level of proficiency in the languages they are studying. Other students who don’t plan to use the language professionally likely care about how they can use the language in real life. It is therefore essential to promote proficiency in post-secondary courses and programs, and this section will provide more information about ways in which proficiency can be used to guide language teaching and learning in this context.