what is a "working knowledge" of a language?

Guest   Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:10 am GMT
I often hear people use this term, but it's so ambiguous! Does anyone here use that, and if yes, what do you mean?
Guest   Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:04 am GMT
It could be anything from a few phrases to fluency, depending on the honesty and modesty of the person.
Guest   Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:59 pm GMT
Strictly speaking, it should be anything from near-fluency to native-level proficiency.

IMHO, I can claim a working knowledge iof English, although I'm certainly not as articulate as some posters on this foum.
Xie   Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:05 pm GMT
Speaking from my limited experiences as a student, a great many non-native speakers as lecturers/professors usually don't have a good working knowledge, even though they have studied their own subjects, whichever they are, for a great many years...

Sometimes, I'd guess it could be a shame for them to have difficulty writing their essays in their "native" language, when, understandably, they never even write them in their "native" language for educational reasons.

The spectrum of working knowledge could be very wide. Having a thick accent and pronouncing 6 out of 10 (English) words incorrectly could still get your message through. A European (whose native is supposed to be somehow related to English) and a Chinese lecturer (who claims to have been in the US for a couple of years) could be speaking this same level of English, as I can tell. Personally, I think I'm picky, and I almost always prefer instructors who are native speakers. Some competent non-native speakers might do, but pick-ily speaking, I "don't care much" for scholars of, for example, the English language who speak with a clear but noticeable foreign accent.
Guest   Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:02 pm GMT
The interagency Language Roundtabe scale of language proficiency (used to be FSI) calls this level (S-2 or level 2) and defines this level as "limited working proficiency"-whether this is the level you mean, I don't know.

Someone at this level would be able to handle limited work requirements, introductions, casual conversations about things such as current events, work, family, etc.

This scale also describes the person as having an accent and gives more details about the accent.

Personally, I find decribing accents as a bit odd. I think it should be a footnote. Some people may sound almost native-like in pronunciation, but not have the vocabulary or advanced grammar/structures in a language while another may understand the language very well, use correct grammar and still sound like a foreign speaker.