Today is the January 1st and it is the one day of the year during which we all look back on the previous year, contemplating successes and failures while being hopeful for the year to come.

This has gotten me thoughtful about how we evaluate ourselves when learning languages

The typical way to check your skills’ evolution is to test it in real life and through learning a language, this should happen often at a certain point.

This being said, this type of verification is only subjective and depends highly on the situation. Furthermore, the recurrence of such situations decreases how clearly we see the improvement done.

You may be able to have longer conversations with someone and with less difficulty but has your level really increased? Or are you simply using over and over again vocabulary that you have mastered a year ago?

Do you feel like you can write about more topics? Or are you just hovering said topics due to the lack of knowledge?

Setting checkpoints is a great way to verify the above and see where the difficulties still lie.

There are a few ways to use checkpoints but here are the two main ones to me.

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I. Taking an Official Test

This is a well-known type of checkpoint. You can compare yourself by giving a mock test a go and then 6 months to a year later, you can try another mock test or even the real one.

You can thus observe that, for instance, listening used to be a difficulty as a whole but now you have trouble with long texts only.

You can then work more specifically on said skill to improve where you were lacking.

II. Making your Own Checkpoints

The best checkpoint is the one you’ll prepare for yourself.

For this, there isn’t any specific way to do so, but here are a few ideas that could come in handy:

A) Write a text on a specific topic. Spend time on it and don’t hesitate to use the dictionary or any other resource to write it down.

Then, 6 months later, take the same topic and write again about it. This time, do not use any outside resource and don’t take the previous text as an inspiration. Start from scratch again and see how far you go.

This way, you can compare the two and write a third text using resources in order to complete the second one, create a longer, more detailed version of it.

B) Ask a native friend in the target language to give you a test (whether oral or not) that you’ll have set for yourself and get a similar one done every few months. After half a year, stop and ask for a final one 6 months later. The task should have gotten easier and your friend will be able to let you know their own opinion, thus giving you an outside related view of your skills.

I have been giving myself goals for a long time and taken quite a few language tests in the past. However, I now proceed and write constantly more in my target languages. I then re-read said texts and either write follow-ups or analyze myself the problems I see in those old texts.

Find out what works for you, but absolutely do not let yourself follow a book or something without giving yourself time for a good old check-up.

Originally published at on January 1, 2019.

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Polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping the world to learn languages and become more understanding of others. Say hi →

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