Language skills and proficiency levels

Language proficiency can be divided into 4 main skills and for each skill there can be several levels.


The 4 main skills are:

  • listen
  • speak
  • read
  • write

They can further divided into subcategories and they can get more details. Trying to answer two questions:

  • How can we gain such proficiency?
  • How can we verify our proficiency? (get feedback)

listen and understand (vocabulary)

  • podcast
  • radio stations
  • videos (e.g. youtube, netflix)
  • real-life person

How to verify?

In the case of a real person it will be evident from the flow of the conversation.

In the other cases having a written version of the same text can help you verify that you recognized the words. Having a translation to a language you know better can help verify your understanding.

speak (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation)

  • For this you will need another person to talk to.

read and understand

  • You need text and the translation.
  • This can be done by yourself manually if you have access to the translation to a language you speak better.
  • This can be partially automated as well. (DuoLingo, LibreLingo)

read aloud and pronounce correctly

  • For this you need some text and another person to verify your pronunciation.
  • There is no good way to automate this.

write (vocabulary, grammar)

  • To some extent this can be practiced and verified with some software. (e.g. Duolingo, LibreLingo)
  • for really high quality you will need a real person.

Levels of proficiency

There are at lest two system to define the level of proficiency.

CEFR - Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

ILR scale - Interagency Language Roundtable scale

On this page about ILR scale you can find details of levels separately for the various skills.