Progress? Steady?

soni   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 03:47 GMT
My problem should be answered by non-native speakers here. After learning English so far, how do we know that we have made a progress? Is there a way to measure that we are still in the same position after learning English for several years?
Steve K   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 05:21 GMT
In my view the best measurement of your progress is your vocabulary. If you acquire your vocabulary honestly via lots of reading and listening, and regularly reviewing your new words and phrases, then the vocabulary count is your best measurement of progress. You may start with 3,000 words and work yourself up to 8,000 or 10,000. If the vocabulary grows the other skills will naturally come. Seeing this growth is reassuring for those periods when you do not realize that your ability to express yourself is constantly growing (as long as you continue to work at it).
Easterner   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 07:11 GMT
Vocabulary expansion is an useful measurement on short term, and largely on more elementary levels, but in my opinion fluency is the best indicator on the long run. Of course fluency is very much about using the aprropriate vocabulary, but it is also, and to a greater extent, a skillful use of various patterns (grammatical structures, idioms, etc.) characteristic to the given language - we can say managing the context in which words are used. Knowing the meaning of a set of isolated words alone will not ensure that you are proficient in the language, because words or word structures are used in larger structures, and the skill in using these structures seems to matter the most. As for myself, I measure my proficiency in a given language by how much I can understand native-like grammatical structures or idioms in authentic written or spoken texts. And of course being exposed to such sources will indirectly help you in picking up native-like language patterns.
Easterner   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 09:12 GMT
Before anybody points out: "appropriate". Sorry for the typo :-).
Steve K   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 14:16 GMT
Easterner , I agree on the importance of mastering the natural phrasing of a new language. Fluency, or the ability to communicate effectively in most situations, is precisely what we are trying to measure and therefore cannot be an indicator. In a way the speaker's self-evaluation is a good indicator, but soni is looking for an objective yardstick. TOEFL and other similar tests are OK but students soon learn how to ace these and as a result the colleges here are full of foreign students with good TOEFL scores who cannot communicate properly in English.
To me the Gordian knot solution is vocabulary. But the vocabulary needs to be earned and properly measured. Words need to be learned in context, in the context of phrases and and in the context of larger meaningful content items that one is reading and listening to. Vocabulary needs to be used in writing and the accuracy of that writing needs to be anaylzed and measured as well.
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Boy   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 18:10 GMT
<<After learning English so far, how do we know that we have made a progress? Is there a way to measure that we are still in the same position after learning English for several years?>>

Here's what I think as an ESL:

1)The less use of Dictionary than before while reading.

2)The flow of words should travel into your brain cells the way it does in your native language while listening (like waves are just floating, you don't need to concentrate). You must start understanding the context into chunks withtout focusing at each and every word.

3)Your thoughts should be well organized while writing. The reader must read it at a stretch. He/she does not need to read it over and over again.

4)last but not least, the ability to express oneself in a real-life situation without facing any usual hassles..

To me, it all comes down to the vocabulary level, like someone has said above: "If the vocabulary grows the other skills will naturally come."
Mxsmanic   Thursday, August 26, 2004, 19:10 GMT
Some indications of progress:

1. You think everyday thoughts in English for reasonably long periods (half an hour, an hour, etc.) without deliberately attempting to do so.

2. You dream in English AND you can remember what was said in the dream.

3. You have a brief discussion with someone, and later on you can remember what was discussed, but you can't remember which language the two of you were speaking (English or your native language).

4. You find yourself choosing specific words and constructions because they "look right," instead of relying on memorized rules of grammar or usage.

5. You find that you can understand and respond to a question in English immediately, but you have to think for a moment if someone asks you to translate it into your native language.
soni   Friday, August 27, 2004, 03:53 GMT
I post this problem because I always feel that my English skill is not progressing. I think I have come to a phase that there's no breakthrough with my English.

I feel that there are so many words I don't understand (I must look up my dictionary so often, when I read an English novel). I think the most difficult part is when the author start describing about nature (mountains, a kind of flowers, etc...).

Thanks for all your responses.
Justin   Friday, August 27, 2004, 04:15 GMT
Well, I wonder if it is too far gone for a language learner to DREAM in a language other than his mother tongue unless he has stayed in the country where the language is spoken.
Mxsmanic   Friday, August 27, 2004, 04:40 GMT
Any type of intensive use of a language is likely to produce dreams in that language. I've dreamt in French simply after taking Berlitz courses in the language (but Berlitz courses are very intensive, even when they are only a few hours a week).

It's never necessary to actually live in a country where a language is spoken in order to achieve any given level of fluency, but it does help. It helps simply because it provides a lot more exposure to the language than one can easily get otherwise, but there's nothing particularly magic about being there that makes it qualitatively different from studying a language intensively elsewhere.
soni   Friday, August 27, 2004, 07:34 GMT
I really want to reach a level where I feel that it is the time that I have no doubt that I don't have to worry about the quality of my English skill. Ofcourse, I realise that there should be a process in order to reach that.
Mxsmanic   Friday, August 27, 2004, 18:39 GMT
I think the only useful process for attaining that goal is active use of the language. Practice makes perfect.