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Perfomance in Second Language Skills

written by: Saoirse OMara • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/2/2012

Did you know there are five different skills that should be taken into consideration when assessing your students' performance in second language acquisition? Find out about them!

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    When learning a second language, there are different areas of skills that need to be practiced. This article explains the different areas and give tips on how to assess the performance in second language acquisition for each of the areas.

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    Written Language


    Reading means reading comprehension. Assessment should focus on how fast your student can read and how much s/he understands of the text. Furthermore, you should differentiate concerning the difficulty of the text.


    Writing refers to the skills to write coherent texts with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as the skill to express exactly what you mean. You should assess your students in regard of how easy their text can be followed, how many mistakes they made and how clearly they express themselves. Take into account if they use conjunctions to make the text clear, if they vary their use of words, and if they are aware of nuances in meaning.

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    Oral Language


    Listening means being able to follow spoken language and understand the main content of a speech, dialogue or other forms of spoken language. Good listening skills are absolutely necessary to interact with others in daily life. You can assess listening skills by playing a recorded speech or dialogue to your students. Let them take notes on what they understand or make them fill in a questionnaire about the record.


    Dialogue refers to the ability to participate in a dialogue with others. It is all about speaking (for the listening part of a dialogue, please see above). The main skills are spontaneous speaking and paraphrasing. When speaking to others, it is not necessary to speak grammatically correct as long as the other people understand you. Thus, when assessing your students, you should focus on how well they can make it clear what they mean. Can they paraphrase if they do not know certain words? Can they maintain a fluent conversation? Grammar mistakes should only noted as a minor deduction of the grade.

    Coherent Speaking

    Coherent speaking means talking to an audience, such as when holding a presentation. As with writing skills, your students should be able to express their thoughts clearly and in a well structured manner. In addition, assessment should include proper pronunciation and fluent speaking.

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    Additional Tips

    In general, you should not focus on only one or two of the skills but help your students improve all five skills. Overall assessment of language skills should include all five skills as all of them are part of the students’ overall performance in second language acquisition.

    However, if you notice that a student has particular difficulties with one of the skills, you should give him opportunities to concentrate on that skill.

    Coherent speaking is the most difficult to master skill, so make sure your students have good skills in writing and dialogue before testing them with a presentation.