Quick online quizzes claim to assess your foreign language skills. While high marks make you feel good, can you trust the results? We examine the value of pop-quizzes against formal tests from language websites to determine how best to test your language proficiency online.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” they say, and the adage most definitely applies to foreign language fluency. Anybody who’s revisited a language they learned in school will confirm that after years
They say ‘if you don’t use it you lose it.’
Anybody who has attempted to revisit a language learned when they where at school, will vouch for the fact that it can be difficult to remember even the very basics of a foreign language.
Many a time I have berated myself for my lack of attentiveness during my French and German studies when confronted with having to converse or interpret something that is not in my mother tongue.
For many a new job, a move abroad, or visit to another country for a short vacation may make it necessary to dive into your memory banks and attempt to recall language lessons from years ago.
For whatever reason, understanding and identifying your strengths and weaknesses will go a long way in helping you to improve your ability to converse in another language more confidently.
Nowadays, there are a variety of ways to assess your language skills online. These can more or less be divided into two categories: 1) online quizzes and 2) formal tests, usually found on language sites.
We will look at the value of these two methods of assessing your current language skills.
Online quizzes can often be found on popular social news and entertainment websites which cover a variety of topics.
These quizzes often consist of 10-15 questions which usually start off easy and progressively get more and more difficult.
For example, this French test on Buzzfeed claims to be able to assess whether you would pass your GCSE French exam.
This “test” consists of 13 questions, all of which are multiple choice. Four comprehension questions, three grammar, the other six are translation type questions.
As you can see from the screen shot, once a question is answered the quiz will tell you whether you have answered the question correctly, explaining why the answer was right or wrong.
After completing this short test, I was surprised at the final result. I had finished with a B grade. Impressive considering that a) I was useless at French and b) I had chosen to take French only up until the age of 14. German was my GCSE language choice. In fact, it is fair to say that at least half on half of the questions, I made a bit of a guess!
While there is certainly a feel good factor attached to the fact that I would get a B if I was to complete a French GCSE, I couldn’t help feeling that this “test” was a bit gimmicky!
The title of the article is, ‘Would you pass GCSE French right now?’ Then the author elaborates further adding, ‘if all questions were multiple choice that is.‘ Of course a French exam is not all multiple choice, so this “test” is not a true reflection of what your level is.
A few that completed the test had similar sentiments in the comments section:
Additionally, there is no breakdown at the end of the test to indicate which areas of the language which you need to improve and perhaps dedicate some hours to studying.
Online Tests from Language Sites
You can find online tests from dedicated language websites that specialize in helping people to learn or improve their skills.
Those familiar with language development will tell you that there are four main aspects to learning a language.
- Phonology – the study of the sounds in a language
- Semantics- the study of the meaning of language
- Pragmatics- the study of the use of the language and intention behind utterances
- Syntax-the study of the structure of language and how words can be formed to create grammatically correct sentences
Online tests from dedicated language sites will tend to test the level you are at for least three of the four areas above; semantics, pragmatics and syntax.
The first noticeable difference is that online tests from language sites are usually a lot more in-depth. While the Buzzfeed quiz consisted of just 13 question, the test on Listen and Learn USA contained 50 questions.
Throughout the test different kind of questions were thrown at me, testing the various aspects of language. To be honest, I found the test a lot more difficult than the quiz.
After completing the test, I knew that the results were going to be less favorable. My fears were realized when I was emailed my results, I was at beginner level. A reality check and more importantly and fairer reflection of where my French skills are.
While quizzes are fun to engage with and share, online tests from dedicated language sites are far more in-depth and are will test various aspects of your language knowledge and ability.
So if you want to obtain a clearer idea of what your language skill level is currently, test your ability. Listen and Learn USA has online tests for a variety of languages. The tests are totally free and you will get your results back immediately. Tests will take between three and 15 minutes depending on your level of competence.