6-Point Rubric
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LevelComprehensionGrammarPhrasingPronunciationDeliveryContent
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1The language sounds like jumbled up noise. Can't parse word boundaries. Virtually nothing is understood.Strings together words with no apparent systematic structure. Only the most basic messages are comprehensible.Extremely frequent unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., nearly every sentence, usually multiple times. It's obvious that the person isn't a native speaker. It's clear the person is almost entirely thinking in their native language and directly translating their thoughts word for word. Much of what the person says is nonsensical. *8Almost entirely incomprehensible to native speakers.Displays many negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, some at severe levels of intensity. Listening to the speaker is too difficult/unpleasant to be bearable for most people. Detrimental. *9, *10Frequently fails to conform to basic social norms. Often says highly inappropriate things that demonstrate a complete lack of awareness. Not able to function in society. Assumed to be suffering from mental illness.
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2Every few sentences a word or phrase is understood, but a large majority of the language is incomprehensible. Some systematic structure to the way that words are strung together, but breaks more grammatical rules than follows. Regularly nonsensical.Frequent unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., at least once in most sentences. It's obvious that the person isn't a native speaker. Some natural phrasing is incorporated into speech, but the person mostly seems to be thinking in their native language and directly translating their thoughts. A large amount of what the person is trying to say is clear, but often a significant portion of meaning is lost. *8Extreme deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. Only occasional portions of what the person says is comprehensible. Displays many negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, which makes make listening to the speaker considerably difficult/unpleasant. Just barely tolerable. *9, *10Regularly fails to conform to social norms. Prone to saying inappropriate things that demonstrate a lack of awareness. Just barely able to function in society.
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3When listening to easy language, around one word or phrase per sentence is understood. Occasionally full sentences are understood. The person can often grasp the general topic of conversation, but nearly all of the specific details are lost. *1Extremely frequent syntax errors, i.e., nearly every sentence, usually multiple times. Syntax errors often makes comprehending what the person is trying to say difficult.Regular unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., around once every other sentence. It's apparent that the person isn't a native speaker. A significant amount of natural phrasing is incorporated into speech, but the person regularly appears to be thinking in their native language and directly translating their thoughts. What the person is trying to say is usually clear, but occasionally meaning is lost. *8Severe deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. Has a very thick foreign accent. Overall largely comprehensible, but requires significant effort on the part of listeners, and significant portions may still be incomprehensible.Displays a significant amount of negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, which makes listening to the speaker somewhat difficult/unpleasant. *9, *10Occasionally fails to conform to social norms. Overall doesn't struggle to function in society, but is often considered "out of touch", and prone to being ostracized by peers.
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4Can understand a majority (~70%) of easy language, but a significant amount of details are lost or confused. When listening to moderate language, the person can often grasp the general topic of conversation, but nearly all of the specific details are lost. References to shared cultural knowledge are virtually all missed. *1, *2, *3Frequent syntax errors, i.e., at least once in most sentences. Syntax errors occasionally make comprehending what the person is trying to say difficult. Consistently breaks very basic grammatical rules, e.g., not adding "-s" to plural nouns.Intermittent unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., around once every few sentences. A large amount of phrasing is natural, and only a small portion of the phrasing that is unnatural appears to be due to the person thinking in their native language and directly translating; much of the unnatural phrasing resembles the kind of mistakes that native speakers make as children. It is nearly always clear what the person is trying to say. *8Continual deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. Has a thick foreign accent, but given that native speaker listeners are concentrating, is still mostly comprehensible.Displays a decent amount of negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, but displays some positive ones as well. Although the negative qualities tend overshadow the positive ones, overall the speaker isn't hard to put up with. *9, *10, *11Fails to conform to social norms every now and again, and seems to struggle with awareness when compared to the average person, but overall is able to function as a well-adjusted member of society.
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5Can understand nearly all (90~95%) of easy language; details are only rarely lost or confused. Can understand a majority (~70%) of moderate language in familiar domains, but a significant number of details are lost or confused. When listening to moderate language in unfamiliar domains, around 50% or less is understood. Can occasionally pick up on references to shared cultural knowledge, but a majority are missed. *1, *2, *4, *3
Regular syntax errors, i.e., around once every other sentence. Starts to become distracting and makes listening require extra concentration, but overall doesn't get in the way of comprehension. Occasional unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., once every few minutes. Never appears to be translating from their native language. When unnatural phrasing is used, it's usually because the person can't think of a natural way to express the idea, and so consciously resorts to unnatural phrasing; they are usually aware of whether their phrasing is natural or not. The person will often use phasing that is natural, but inappropriate for the current situation (too informal, etc.). *8Frequent deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. The native language of the speaker readily shows through, but overall the person is only slightly harder to understand than a native speaker.Either displays an even mix of positive and negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, or doesn't display any prominent vocal and nonverbal qualities at all. Verbal performance and body language neither enhance nor subtract from the experience of listening to the speaker in any significant way. *9, *10, *11Consistently acts in line with social norms. Considered to be a pleasant, well-adjusted person by peers.
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6Can understand virtually all (~99%) of easy language, but every once in a while something mumbled or said quickly will be lost, even though most natives would be able to understand it. Can understand nearly all (90~95%) of moderate language in familiar domains; details are rarely lost or confused. Can understand a majority (~70%) of moderate language in unfamiliar domains, but a significant number of details are lost or confused. When listening to difficult language, around 50% or less is understood. Picks up on most references to major pieces of shared culture knowledge, but most of the more niche references are missed. *1, *2, *4, *5, *3Intermittent unnatural syntax errors, i.e., once every few sentences. Errors occur often enough to make it obvious that the person isn't a native speaker, but are usually infrequent enough to not be distracting or get in the way of comprehending what the person is saying. *6Infrequent unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., less than once every ten minutes. Can appropriately tailor language to most situations that occur in daily life. Minimum to have native speaker listeners confidently assume that the person is a native speaker. *8Regular minimal deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. Just enough deviation to give away that the person isn't a native speaker, but is still pleasant to listen to, and isn't any harder to understand than a native speaker. It may not be clear what the native language of the person is.Displays a combination of positive and negative vocal and nonverbal qualities, but overall the positive qualities overshadow the negative ones, which biases the experience of listening to the speaker in a positive direction. *9, *10, *11Is not only a pleasant, well-adjusted person, but is also cherished by peers for having an above average level of knowledge or competence in a certain domain. For example, always has something interesting and thoughtful to say, or is particularly funny.
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7Can understand virtually 100% of easy language; can understand anything that a native would be able to. Can understand virtually all (~99%) of moderate language in familiar domains. Can understand nearly all (90~95%) of moderate language in unfamiliar domains; details are rarely lost or confused. Can understand a majority (~70%) of difficult material. Picks up on most references to shared cultural knowledge, but more niche references are occasionally missed. *1, *2, *4, *5, *3Occasional unnatural syntax errors, i.e., once every few minutes. Just enough to tip a native speaker off that the person may not be a native speaker. Errors never get in the way of comprehending what the person is saying. *6Extremely Infrequent, unintentional misuse of words and collocations, i.e., less than once an hour. Can use technical language at a high enough standard to work with others on intellectually demanding tasks at a professional level. *8Occasional deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. When listening to the person read a text out loud, some native speakers will assume that the person grew up speaking a different variety of the same language, whereas some will doubt whether the person is a native speaker or not. Displays a considerable amount of positive vocal and nonverbal qualities. There may be some negative qualities as well, but they do not stand out. Overall, the experience of listening to the speaker is significantly enhanced. *9, *10, *11Exerts a strong influence on the people around them. Consistently stands out in the groups that they are a part of. Regularly looked up to by peers.
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8Can understand at least ~99% of all moderate language, and virtually 100% in particularly familiar domains. Can understand nearly all (90~95%) of difficult language. Almost never misses references to shared cultural knowledge that most native speakers would understand, and occasionally understands references to culture knowledge that many natives would miss. Skilled at using facial expressions, body language, tone, and subtle word choice to read social situations and pick up on hidden/implied meaning. *2, *4, *5, *3Infrequent natural syntax errors, i.e., less than once every ten minutes. Some errors occur spontaneously due to getting tongue tied while speaking (when this happens, the speaker is usually aware), while some errors are consistently repeated (in these cases, the speaker is usually unaware). Minimum level to have native speaker listeners confidently assume that the person is a native speaker. *7Virtually never unintentionally misuses words or collocations. Has an above average ability to articulate ideas among educated native speakers of the language. *8Intermittent deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. When listening to the person read a text out loud, most native speakers will assume that the person is a native speaker that grew up speaking a different variety of the language than they did.Displays many positive vocal and nonverbal qualities, some to an outstanding degree. Any negative qualities are negligible. Delivery is at a high enough level to succeed in a profession that revolves around speaking to an audience, such as a tour guide or TV show host. *9, *10, *11Has ideas or messages powerful enough to become successful in a profession that revolves around the communication of ideas/messages, e.g., a stand-up comedian or public intellectual.
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9Can understand ~99% of most domains of difficult language; any lack of knowledge of concepts is made up for with inferential abilities. Highly skilled at using facial expressions, body language, tone, and subtle word choice to read social situations and pick up on hidden/implied meaning. Often picks up on obscure references to culture knowledge that most natives would miss. *4, *5, *3Extremely infrequent natural syntax errors, i.e., less than once an hour. Errors only occur spontaneously due to getting tongue tied while speaking, and when this happens, the speaker is aware. There are no errors that are consistently repeated. *7Within a specific domain, can manipulate words well enough to succeed in a profession that directly depends on the ability to articulate ideas in exceedingly precise or compelling ways, such as a public intellectual or stand-up comedian. Able to use language in exceptionally creative, innovative, or elegant ways when called for. Infrequent deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. For example, things like pronouncing "hyperbole" as "hyper-BOWL". When listening to the person read a text out loud, native speakers will confidently assume that the person grew up speaking the same variety of the language that they did. Displays most commonly cited positive vocal and nonverbal qualities, some of which are displayed to an outstanding degree. Virtually never displays negative qualities. Delivery is at a high enough level to succeed in a profession that revolves around outstanding vocal performance, such as narrator or voice actor (singing excluded.) *9, *10, *11Has ideas or messages powerful enough to majorly impact the lives of many people, or even bring significant societal change.
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10Can understanding virtually 100% of nearly all spoken varieties of the language. Highly developed inferential abilities allow the person to understand highly broken forms of the language, e.g., a poor-quality recording of someone speaking in a think foreign accent. A vast knowledge of concepts allows the person to quickly comprehend and retain large amounts of technical information, even in fields they have limited experience in. Virtually no syntax errors. Within a specific domain, masterful at manipulating words to the extent that the impact their message has is greatly amplified. Has the potential to be looked back on as an exemplar wordsmith by future generations. Virtually no deviation from the consensus of what is natural and correct among native speakers of the variety of the language spoken. For all intents and purposes, perfect.Displays virtually all commonly cited positive vocal and nonverbal qualities, most of which are displayed to an outstanding degree. Virtually never displays negative qualities. Has the potential to remain in the collective consciousness and personally influence the vocal quality and inflection patterns of later generations. *9, *10, *11Has ideas or messages powerful enough significantly impact mankind as a whole.
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*Notes
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1"Easy" language refers to basic language that's used for things like casual conversation, for example when hanging out with friends. "Easy" language tends to cover topics very familiar to speakers, and usually doesn't contain any abstract, complicated, or nuanced material. The language used in "story time" type vlogs, romance movies, or slice of life anime usually falls into the category of "easy" language.
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2"Moderate" language refers to language that is significantly more challenging than "easy" language for second language speakers to become able to understand, but still wouldn't be any trouble for most educated native speakers. Factors that may make something "moderately" difficult to understand include: covering abstract, technical, or culture-specific topics, using a broad range of vocabulary, or being unusually fast or difficult to hear. Some examples of "moderate" domains of language include college lectures, the news, fast comedy, old movies (with outdated language and poor audio quality), and everyday conversation in an especially noisy environment.
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3"Shared culture knowledge" refers to people, places, events, and ideas/concepts that are mutually understood as "common knowledge" within a culture, and thus are regularly referenced without further explanation. For example, in the United States, people such as Elon Musk or Brad Pitt, places such as New York or L.A., events such as the Vietnam War or 9/11, and ideas such as "the placebo effect" or "a double standard" may be spontaneously mentioned in a the middle of a conversation with a stranger, with the assumption that the other person will know about and understand what is being referred to. Some shared cultural knowledge may only apply to specific domains of people within a culture. For example, in the United States, pieces of Aristotle's philosophy may be considered common knowledge among people who are educated in liberal arts. Catching up on shared culture knowledge is an important component of reaching a high level of comprehension in a foreign language.
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4A "familiar domain" is a domain of language that you have spent a significant amount of time being exposed to, and thus have gained an understanding of the specific vocabulary, speech style, and topics covered within that domain. Familiarly plays a huge role in the comprehension of difficult language.
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5"Difficult" language refers to language that is significantly harder to understand than "moderate" language. "Difficult" language may be challenging even for some native speakers. Language can often become "difficult" to understand when multiple factors that would cause something to be "moderate" compound. Some examples include: a high-level lecture by a particularly verbose college professor, a four-decade old historical period drama with archaic language and poor audio quality, or a muffled conversation recorded on a damaged cassette tape.
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6An "unnatural error" is an error that a native speaker is extremely unlikely to ever make, e.g., saying "goed" instead of "went."
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7A "natural error" is an error that a native speaker would be likely to make, e.g., mixing up tenses in the middle of a sentence.
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8"collocations" are sets of words that are consistently used together. For example, "To save time" ("To preserve time" would sound unnatural"), or "To take a risk" ("To do a risk" would sound unnatural).
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9"Vocal" refers to the voice, and "nonverbal" refers to things outside of language that affect communication, such as body language or facial expression.
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10"Negative" means vocal and nonverbal qualities that subtract from the experience of listening to that speaker. Some examples include: an annoying quality of voice, speaking too fast or too slow, overusing filler words, regularly restarting sentences mid-way through, a lack of enunciation, an excessive amount of stuttering or hesitation, a sense of being strained or tensed, and awkward or unnatural body language.
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11"Positive" means vocal and nonverbal qualities that enhance the experience of listening to that speaker. Some examples include: a smooth or soothing cadence, clear and natural enunciation, a sense of being free flowing and continuous, a sense of effortlessness or flow, natural and engaging body language, natural back-channeling, and an appropriate amount of confidence.
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