Acknowledging Recent National Language Proficiency Test Results

Costa Ricans and Language Profiency Test

Recently the English Proficiency of Costa Ricans and the labor of educators was criticized by a tumult of  biased and non well-researched opinions as newspapers filled the social networks with headlines of results of a study done by Education First  which is the the world leader in international education.  The results ranked Costa Rica in the 43th spot.

English Proficiency ranked by Countries

The study demostrates  that:

  1. English language proficiency  is linked to higher income , higher quality of life , ease to do business and innovation.
  2. Men and women score similarly poorly in the test, with no marked gender difference.
  3. Young professionals aged 25 to 34 are just as proficient in English as many of their peers in other countries.
  4. Costa Rican educators and lawmakers will need to identify the causes of the low level performance in English proficiency.

Things to consider for a good interpretation of results:

  1. Costa Rica doesn’t top the lists of countries ranked by higher income , higher quality of life or innovation so  if English is correlated to such factors , Costa Rica as a country has to do more than teaching classes to improve the English proficiency of its citizens.
  2. The good aspect of the study is that young professionals aged 25 to 34 are  as proficient as people in developed countries.
  3. Costa Rican Educators have a big role in improving the proficiency of students but this needs to go hand by hand with what the government does. A good educator can change a group for the better but not the whole student population. Individual changes are a step in the right direction but won’t put us at the top of the list.

Language Educators and their Performance in Language Proficiency Tests

The Centro Cultural Britanico was one of the two institutions that were in charge of evaluating current and future educators to certify if they qualify for a long- term positions in the Ministry of Public Education (MEP).

This is how  educators did  in the test. It would make sense to say that if a majority of educators are in the upper-intermediate level , it would be mission impossible to expect the Costa Rican population to score above a B2 level.


Consistency in Language Proficiency Test Results

Language proficiency exams tend to be consistent as I always have been placed  in the same level of the Common European Framework for Languages

CEFR Framework

I have taken two language proficiency tests  from two well-known institutions such as the Centro Cultural Britanico and the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano and  both  placed me in the same level.

I also took three of the tests provided by Education First and the results were the same

Online Proficiency Test

Second test

Education first  result test

Third Test

EF Score

You can take the three tests by clicking these links : Test 1 and  Test 2 and Test 3

Why Not Test in All Four Domains?

Because the relationships among the four domains are so strong, the argument goes, that an assessment of any single domain can serve as a reasonably good surrogate for an assessment in any of the others. In fact, early studies of the TOEIC® Listening and Reading test (e.g., Wilson, 1989) seem  to have suggested this possibility. The strong correlation between scores on the TOEIC Listening and Reading test and performance on language proficiency interviews was viewed as evidence that  TOEIC Listening and Reading scores could serve, at least indirectly, as moderately good proxies for direct assessments of speaking proficiency.


I can’t finish this post without acknowledging that the study done by Education First tells how we do in English and not how we pretend to do in English . Criticizing studies and test results  add to the fact that we deserve to be ranked 43th.

The results demonstrates that English language proficiency tests are reliable as results don’t vary  and if they do  , the variation tends to be small.

Teachers sometimes want to take individual or country  results as a personal attack to their integrity , First we must understand that  being a good language learner doesn’t equal to being a good language teacher. Language proficiency test measure skills , not teaching abilities as some people assume.

The language proficiency of a country depends on different factors and not simply on English classes . Innovation plays role in having better language teachers and learners but some classrooms have not evolved yet. most classrooms are filled only with chairs , desks , whiteboards and markers.

 Information for further study

Toeic- Additional Validity Study

Toeic – Assessing English-Language Proficiency in All Four Language Domains: Is It Really Necessary?


Making Fun of my Accent?

 Making fun of my accentWikipedia Excerpt #1

In sociolinguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation. An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside (a regional or geographical accent), the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity,  or social class (a social accent), or influence from their first language


  • Would you like to have an accent like Eminem ? Nope
  • Would you like  to have a Canadian accent if you  have never  been to Canada? Nope , Not even possible
  • Would you like to sound like you are from Texas if you have never been to Texas? Nope , Not even possible
  • Would you like to get a social accent without mingling with that social group ? Nope , Not even possible
  • Would you like to have a good pronunciation , correct use of grammar and collocation? Yep

Wikipedia Excerpt #2

The most important factor in predicting the degree to which the accent will be noticeable (or strong) is the age at which the non-native language was learned

The critical period theory states that if learning takes place after the critical period (usually considered around puberty) for acquiring native-like pronunciation, an individual is unlikely to acquire a native-like accent

Most researchers agree that for adults, acquiring a native-like accent in a non-native language is near impossible.

There are also rare instances of individuals who are able to pass for native speakers even if they learned their non-native language in early adulthood

  • If I learned English on my thirties , would I be able to get a British accent? Not very likely
  • Do you still feel like getting an accent after reading the words Unlikely and nearly impossible? Nope

Wikipedia Excerpt #3

Getting an accent depends on factors other than age, such as length of residence, similarity of the non-native language to the native language and the frequency with which both languages are used


  • Is  even possible to get a Canadian accent ,  a Texas accent or  a peculiar person accent without being to that country , location  or mingling  with that  social group? Not possible

Lenght of residence

  • Can you get a Canadian accent if you live in a Peruvian neighborhood? Not possible

SimilarIty of Non-native language

  • Do you see  a Japanese native speaker getting  a British or Canadian accent? Maybe , Maybe not ,  Those two languages  aren’t remotely close to each other

the frequency with which both languages are used

  • so you think you can get an accent by talking to students  who most of the time doesn’t have a clue of what you are saying? Nope .

New Englishes

This is video is something  I  recommend  when people ask me about the importance of getting an accent.

What should be the focus then?

Fluency is a speech language pathology term that means the smoothness or flow with which sounds, syllables, words and phrases are joined together when speaking quickly.

In the sense of proficiency, “fluency” encompasses a number of related but separable skills:

Reading: the ability to easily read and understand texts written in the language;

Writing: the ability to formulate written texts in the language;

Comprehension: the ability to follow and understand speech in the language;

Speaking: the ability to produce speech in the language and be understood by its speakers.

Reading Comprehension : the level of understanding of text/messages.

First Rule of Learning English

Do you believe that there are no rules when learning a Language?

imageI believe that there aren’t a specific set of things that a learner must do to achieve the goal of learning English, However there are a few advices that I could give to a learner  to make his or her learning more delightful.

Stay busy learning something: No matter what you are doing  , if you are studying grammar, reading comics ,watching movies or memorizing your favorite lyrics , you’ll see that doing any activity will pay off after a few weeks

Use your receptive skills:  Do you want to learn something new ? Read a book, newspaper blog  , listen to your favorite songs in English or watch your favorite movies, those hobbies  will  boost your vocabulary  and improve your listening skills.

Use English as a mean of communication: people tend to see English as a subject and not as a mean of communication so try to  interact with people on social networks , write a tweet here and there  or post a status on your facebook timeline using the target language.

Embrace a little bit of culture here and there: You must have fun in the target language so music , movies ,shows, books must be part of your life . Don’t learn English only to teach it or use it at work . Link English to fun hobbies.

Start learning on your own before enrolling in  a class: this advice might be a way to find out if you have the drive to learn a language, Some people who attend university courses feel the pressure of quizzes and exams so they loose motivation  because learning a language under pressure isn’ t fun.

The situations all learners go through are different and there are many variables such as the country we live in , our age, our motivation, our personality  and all of those factors  can play in favor or against us.

There is no hard–and–fast rules you must follow but a lot of diversity in methods and approaches to learn  a language. So What seems to  work for you?  What piece of advice can you give ?