Language Proficiency – What I “Can do”

After returning from a great trip to Peru a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about my Spanish language proficiency. And, like many things, I think about stuff more often than I do anything about it. But a couple of days ago I finally did something about my thoughts and took an online assessment of my Spanish language skills.

Peru sign/logoI did a web search for getting started. There were several pages that popped up as possible places to do my assessment, but I chose the one from Lengalia to spend my time on. I chose this one because it looked like a more nicely designed website than many of the others I saw. Though not always an indicator of how careful they are about being accurate, it does seem to be that the better designed sites are also the ones with better information. I may go through tests at other sites later, but this is the only one I’ve taken so far.

Common European Framework of Reference

I scored a B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference scale that Lengalia uses. That puts me in the upper intermediate range on their scale. I don’t completely agree with their assessment because I don’t like the word intermediate, but I will accept it for the moment. I also choose to defend myself in that I was fighting Mr. Sandman when it came to reading some of the longer (i.e., boring) texts towards the end of the test.

To get into the C1 level I needed to have a better understanding of “implied” meaning. That is, I needed to be better at reading between the lines. (Like understanding the Mr. Sandman comment above). I know I did struggle with that a bit. Again, partially based on just trying to stay awake. Maybe I should take the test at 11 in the morning and not 11 at night next time.

Another area where I struggled was the fact that this was a European based test. That means they were testing on Iberian Spanish (mainland Spain) and not Latin American Spanish which is where my vocabulary has been built. There were some words here and there that were totally new to me. However, I resisted the urge to look anything up so that I could get a truer representation of my skills.

In their self-assessment chart I certainly fall into the C1 category on some things and B2 on others. So I guess I would be a B2+.

More Evaluation Options

Graphic of various Spanish dialect regions in PeruThere are many scales to rate your proficiency. Most of them are based on “can do” statements. These are self-assessment items that state at various levels you are able to communicate (or comprehend) certain types of information. These are based on functional proficiency as opposed to static, non-forgiving tests.

This language proficiency scale breaks things down into speaking, reading, and listening. On a speaking level with this scale I am solidly at an S3. Reading I feel like I am at R4+. Listening I am at an L4 level. So that puts me towards a more lower-advanced level as opposed to the dreaded intermediate.

I haven’t gone through the ATFL can do statements yet, but I look forward to seeing where I am on this one. It was a longer document than I wanted to read at the moment. I also want to go through some of the tests at the Language Testing International website. While I don’t know anything about their tests, they do provide a huge amount of information.

An Interesting Find

While looking for more proficiency level charts I found an interesting folder on the State Department’s website.

I wonder if it is really supposed to be hidden since the name “Hidden Folders” is in the URL. The title of the page is “Hidden Documents.”

Really, I’m not a hacker! I just used Google to search for the State Department’s definitions of language proficiency.

I think I am between levels 3 and 4 in Spanish based on their self-assessment page.

Way Too Much Info (But Fun To Read)

And, as always, you can easily get lost in Wikipedia reading interesting articles about various Spanish dialects like this one on Peruvian Ribereño Spanish or Argentine Rioplatense Spanish. These are actually a great source of information and I wish now that I had taken the time to read the Peruvian article before I went there last month.

Maybe before my next trip I will remember to check out my friend Wikipedia.

Airports and Telephone Auto Attendants

I am traveling out of the country and needed to call my credit card company to make sure my card did not get frozen while traveling. I called the 800 number on the back of the card and intentionally did not want to speak any of my responses if not necessary. People are sitting around me. Unlike the man who planned a surprise retirement party while yelling into his phone, I didn’t want other people to hear my conversation. It is amazing how much private information people shout into their phones when they are in public.

Receptionist phoneAnyway.

When I sat down at this end of the airport an hour ago, no one was around and no planes were boarding near me. Therefore, there really weren’t any announcements that would interfere with my phone call.

I got through the initial parts of the call to the bank just fine. But when the auto attendant was asking me specifically what I was calling for and was about to wait for my response an announcement came over the speakers. The auto attendant waited patiently for me to stop talking.

The announcement finished and Mrs. Auto Attendant began speaking. She wasn’t but a couple of words into her apology for not understanding my request when another announcement started. She patiently waited again and when the announcement paused Mrs. Attendant said that she would transfer me to a real person who could better help me with my request.

Other than having to wait through the announcements, that was probably the fastest I have ever gotten a real person when calling a bank since the scourge of the auto attendant began.

Ethiopia Bound

I am looking forward to my trip to Ethiopia this week. I will be there visiting friends for the next 3 weeks. Two of the three people I will be visiting I have met before. The third one has become a dear friend via email and I look forward to meeting him in person.

Part of the purpose of the trip is to get to know these ministries in a personal way. Really I am supposed to go over there, spend time with them and build a relationship. I like those types of assignments. Of course, I will also have plenty of opportunities to preach. If it is like most trips I have been on I will exhaust all the sermons I have prepared and still have two weeks left. They always ask visitors to preach often. Sometimes you finish one sermon and they are still hungry for more. You end up preaching 2 or 3 sermons in one sitting.

I would appreciate your prayers while I am there. I am taking some running clothes so that I can challenge a couple of Ethiopians to a race. Of course, I will only pick competitors who are no older than 10 years.

Merry December!

And a Happy Christmas to you!


We had a good Thanksgiving meal with a cousin who lives in the area. I am 15 years older than he is and his parents had moved away from the rest of the family when he was born. This cousin and I have only been together fewer than 10 times in our lives. It was kinda funny since we are cousins but don’t really know each other. But, since there are no introverts on my dad’s side of the family, we didn’t feel like strangers.


We got moved into our house. I think we are closing in on 3 weeks here. Most of the boxes upstairs are unpacked. It looks like we are settling in. That is, until you check out the piles of unopened boxes downstairs. There is still plenty of work to do.


We had a friend over to the house a couple of weeks ago for supper. We only owned 2 chairs at the time (actually, they are borrowed from the office). Thankfully we have a couple of 5-gallon buckets and short trash cans to sit on. That is what we boys used while the girls used the real chairs.

When we were with my cousin for Thanksgiving dinner he gave us 4 dining-room table chairs. We let our most recent lunch guests sit in real chairs. Fancy.

While driving to the library on Saturday we saw some furniture sticking out of a dumpster. Not wanting to pass up a potentially good deal we had to check it out. We pulled enough parts out to scab together a recliner and threw it into the trunk of the car. With a few screws, a hammer and some ingenuity I was able to get a very comfortable recliner out of the deal.

It’s not pretty, but it’s functional.


Our daughter reminds us each morning how many days are left until my birthday. She knows that Christmas can’t come until my birthday is here. She isn’t sure how many days after my birthday that Christmas will come (10 days), but she does know it is a formality that has to be dealt with. [This ends your yearly subtle reminder that you still have time to buy me something. I don’t mind if it arrives late.]

There are lots of Christmas activities coming up in the church. I get to speak at one of the Christmas gatherings next week. I am looking forward to it.

We will be home most of this month and the next. It is a great time to get settled in before we begin traveling in February.

Whatcha Getting for Christmas?

We got a new house. Top that!

A church we were in last month gave my wife a gift card for Target. She bought a Kindle. I got a “new” recliner. We bought a machete for our son so he can mow the lawn. He doesn’t seem that excited about it. Maybe we will get him a pair of scissors for Christmas so he can trim the bushes. Our daughter found 2 new friends up the street. We have all had a profitable December so far.

Whirlwind Trip

We enjoy traveling and feel like we are coming back to our roots with our move back to the US. We have been back for 3 months and have done a little traveling, but now things are really starting to ramp up. This week we are on a trip that is so reminiscent of our travels from 1994 to 2004.

Start Your Engines

We left home on Thursday and traveled up to visit some missionary friends in Indianapolis. Technically we were working since I am their director at the mission board. However, we enjoy spending time with them and hardly feel like it is work to visit them and talk for several hours.

After meeting with them we moved on to my brother’s house where our kids played together and the adults snuck off and played board games. My brother taught a CPR class I was able to attend and where I got re-certified. If you need my services to beat on your chest I would recommend you try to book me early since I am trying to stay booked 6 months or more in advance.

We stayed with my brother for two nights and moved on to Ohio where we had a Sunday morning meeting in the church of one of my college roommates. He has been pastor of this church for about 10 years. It was good to see him and his family again.

Hang On

Between church Sunday morning and Sunday night we moved to a different city in Ohio where I spoke briefly in a church and stayed overnight before moving to another part of Ohio.

We stayed two nights near Toledo and then scooted over to Syracuse, NY. The church I taught in on Wednesday night is one which has been a friend to us for many years. The deaf group was excited to have us there and we enjoyed renewing acquaintances.

After a brief night in Syracuse we moved over to Massachusetts. We are staying two nights here without any meetings. This is a staging spot for our next meeting starting in New Hampshire tomorrow night (Saturday). We will be in New Hampshire at a church mission conference for a week.

Finish Strong

After the conference we will head to Maryland to preach in a church that we have never been in before. However, the pastor is a man we met when he was in Massachusetts. While we are there we will discuss the possibility of helping them get a deaf ministry established.

The next Monday we start a 3-day meeting in Tennessee near where we live. It is a meeting that our mission board organizes which gives pastors and missionaries a chance to meet and work on booking meetings.

The Back Story

We were supposed to close on a house the day before we left on this trip. Since the paperwork was not done we needed to have someone else take care of the documents for us. Though they could be overnighted to us, we weren’t sure where we would be when the papers were ready. Therefore, we gave power of attorney to my parents and they signed the papers yesterday. Today the former owners signed their part of the paperwork and we are officially home owners again. But, we won’t move in for another 2 weeks since we are traveling.

This has been a fun trip in that it brings back so many memories. For our children it will take some getting used to. This is a big transition from our ministry in Argentina where we didn’t even have a car to go across town, much less across the eastern part of the whole country.