Most language teachers have an operating definition of proficiency, even if it is not a very conscious one. In the first part of this post, three different views of the term came to light. Proficiency can be the last stage in a language acquisition journey, hence “certificate of proficiency”. It can also be a set of stages or degrees, the proficiency levelS. Finally, we talk of proficiency in certain tasks or domains, as ESP practitioners would probably frame the concept: proficient FOR some things or IN some areas, but...

“Proficiency” is a concept that is very dear to us language teachers. As dear as hard to define, perhaps. After all, the term “proficiency” is ambiguous at best. If we consider common uses of the word, there are at least three competing definitions. 1.       PROFICIENCY = A HIGHLY ADVANCED LEVEL Some international exams offer certificates at “proficiency level”, a step up from advanced. In this sense, proficiency seems to be the top end of a scale and it is often compared, more or less implicitly, to the competence/ability/knowledge/performance of an...