Functional English – Low Beginner

Some or limited ability to write the English alphabet. Struggles with sound and symbol recognition. Has major problems with spelling and pronunciation. May know basic greetings. Has little or no awareness of grammar structures. The sounds and intonation patterns of the learner’s first language almost completely dominate production. There is a strong tendency to use words from the first language. Any real communication with others using English is extremely limited, if not impossible, unless accompanied by exaggerated body language and gestures.

Level 1 – Beginner

Production may be limited to isolated words and formulaic phrases, or lists. There is some ability to form sentences and to create with language. Recognizes basic grammar structures such as BE verbs, action verbs, nouns, and simple present. Focuses on word-level accuracy. Reads and attempts to understand a simple text of 25 to 50 words. Spells common words found in texts and classroom environment. Demonstrates basic understanding of main ideas and some details when listening. Understands appropriate classroom behaviors and basic academic strategies.

Level 2 – High Beginner / Low Intermediate

Production includes simple statements and questions, but errors will be present. Can give and receive basic information. Demonstrates strong reliance on memorized or learned utterances. Emerging ability to create with the language. Vocabulary and structure are adequate to express basic needs, such as introductions, simple purchases, asking directions. Requires repetition and slowed speech for comprehension. Evidence of strong interference from first language on vocabulary, structure, pronunciation, and intonation.

Level 3 – Intermediate

Can perform predictable and uncomplicated communicative tasks using simple language strategies, e.g., ask and answer questions and sustain a conversation on topics limited to the learner’s common frame of reference. Emerging confidence and ability to create with the language by recombining learned material, often in a reactive mode. Limited vocabulary causes hesitation and circumlocution. Strong interference from first language may still be evident on vocabulary, structure, pronunciation, and intonation. Beginning to link sentences loosely and emerging ability to manipulate tense and logical or temporal connectors. Can write simple letters, summaries, and reports on work and school experiences. Emerging ability to narrate across three major time frames, but strong reliance on present simple tense is still evident. Basic errors, such as subject-verb agreement and word placement still occur which may result in miscommunication. Repetition may still be required for comprehension.

Level 4 – High Intermediate

Can converse as an equal participant, narrating and describing with connected paragraphs across all time frames within normal frame of reference. Able to satisfy the normal requirements of school and work. Has the language (syntax and lexicon) to handle unexpected situations. Develops strategies to operate outside of normal frame of reference, to support opinions, provide details or hypothesize. Demonstrates good communication skills with occasional inappropriate word choice. Needs to become more concise. Writing, although flawed, is easily comprehensible. Text generation is less simplistic and demonstrates solid organization and idea development. Signs of emerging sophistication, precision and control.

* The English Language Institute has an agreement with undergraduate programs at Syracuse University for conditionally admitted students. Successful completion of Level 4 (which includes achieving the college-specific GPA requirements), guarantees full admission to those undergraduate students who had been conditionally admitted due to language requirement. The Institute also works very closely with the graduate schools to determine the requirements for conditionally admitted graduate students.

Level 5 – Advanced

Able to master the requirements of a work setting and understand the main ideas in standard dialect. Can narrate and describe with paragraph-length connected discourse, be understood without difficulty by native speakers, and converse in a clearly participatory fashion. Takes the initiative when faced with complicated tasks and social situations. Linguistically confident but may make minor errors, especially when discussing abstract topics, supporting opinions, and hypothesizing. Has the ability to tailor language to audience and discuss complex professional or academic topics in depth.