So you’ve been studying a language for a while now. You’ve been practicing when you can and you’ve been diligent in your studies, but how do you know if you really understand it? Here are a few levels of language comprehension that you’ve probably experienced or will shortly on your language learning journey. This stage can take as long at 6 months.
During this stage of language comprehension, you know very little of your target language, and have a very limited vocabulary. In order to learn, you often follow non-verbal cues and repeat everything you hear in your target language. Pictures, visuals, copying words and listening to sentences from your target language into your native language are all ways to most effectively learn your new language. This stage typically happens within 6 months – 1 year of studying your target language.
At this point in language comprehension you understand short phrases and are able to make word associations. Each phrase that is used is often in the present tense and is memorized. You will understand simple questions and comments, but may not be able to answer in complicated sentences, but in yes/no answers instead. This stage lasts for about 1- 3 years.
By this time, your language comprehension has reached up to 3000 words. You are able to match vocabulary, ask and answer simple questions, read simple sentences and understand a good amount of what you hear when the language is simple and slow enough for comprehension. Thoughts, opinions and ideas are expressed though with some difficulty. You are also able to hold simple dialog with other classmates or those around you. Writing is getting easier, however it may not be completely grammatically correct every time.
At this point in your language comprehension journey you are speaking more complex sentences and have over 6000 words stored in your target language vocabulary. You are able to express opinions and thoughts more freely and have confidence in what you are saying and the tense you are speaking, writing and hearing. You can be in this stage of language comprehension for 3 – 5 years.
The final stage of language comprehension is advanced fluency, which is when you have a near-native level of speech, and you now have an extensive vocabulary. You are fully confident in your speech and are easily able to converse, write and listen in your target language. At this stage, you could even be mistaken for a native speaker of your target language! But fear not, this can take up to 10 years to achieve.
Where are you in your language comprehension journey? No matter where you are, keep up the hard work!